Writer/director Alejandro González Iñárritu walked the high wire with last year’s Oscar-winning Birdman, wowing with a movie that was made to seem as if it were done all in one take. For his follow-up, The Revenant, he takes all the tricks he learned with Birdman and explodes them into an epic, raw, insane, and sensational experience.
Set in the early 1800s, the film follows a group of fur traders, led by guide Hugh Glass (Leonardo DiCaprio), as they collect animal pelts in the wilderness. The group is beset by a number of challenges, not the least of which is attacks by Native Americans, who are trying to protect their land and their people.
The group — which includes Captain Andrew Henry (Domhnall Gleeson), the ill-tempered John Fitzgerald (Tom Hardy), and the green Jim Bridger (Will Poulter) — finds itself slowly but surely decimated by a nearly nonstop series of dangers. And as the group falls apart, it becomes more and more difficult for some individuals to think of anything but themselves.
Forgive the vagueness, but the twists and turns of The Revenant are best experienced without any kind of foreknowledge. What can be said is that the making of the movie appears to have been brutal, resulting in a film that’s unlike anything you’ve seen before.
Iñárritu and his team utilized a variety of remote locations to capture something that would be impossible in a studio. Not only is the cast plunked down amid snow, dirt, and icy rivers, they’re also required to act out a series of highly charged, gut-wrenching scenarios, each one seemingly more intense than the next.
The locations are key to the verisimilitude of the movie, as is Emmanuel Lubezki's cinematography. Lubezki captures the landscapes in great, breathtaking detail, but he also puts the camera in tight, you-are-there positions that make the audience almost feel the ruthless nature of the fights and the environment.
DiCaprio puts on the performance of a lifetime, going above and beyond the call of duty to demonstrate the pain and suffering that Glass endures. An incident early on leaves his character unable to speak for a long period of time, and yet that somehow only enhances DiCaprio’s ability.
After his last two films, Iñárritu is obviously one of the most exciting filmmakers making movies today. He appears able to do anything he wants, taking moviegoers to places they’ve never been.