You will seldom see a film that excels so much in almost every aspect. The anti-western/revisionist western genre is not very rich, but always makes for a relatively out-of-the-box film, so it’s an especially extraordinary film when such an uncommonly visited genre is executed with near-perfection in every cinematic facet.
Alejandro González Iñárritu’s The Revenant, which is based on Michael Punke’s novel of the same name, isn’t among all-time greats and isn’t even a pure masterpiece, yet it’s something crafted so greatly that it finds a place among the best films of its respective year at the very least. It’s not an extremely original film in terms of direction or writing, but it’s almost there and was definitely one of the best examples of almost any prominent facet of filmmaking in the year 2015. Be it the performances, the writing, and direction, cinematography, original score, or even costume design, the film checks all the right boxes.
How to Stream or Download The Revenant
To stream or to download The Revenant, click on the Download button that is located below this review. Then choose a digital store you prefer. If you like movies with Leonardo DiCaprio check out our review of Titanic (1997), Shutter Island (2010), Inception (2010), Django Unchained (2012), and Once Upon a Time in Hollywood (2019).
The Movie Review
The film is based in the early 19th century, and revolves around Hugh Glass, who’s played extraordinarily by Leonardo DiCaprio. Glass and his half-Pawnee son Hawk are gone hunting, and their camp is attacked by an Arikara war party, which seeks to find out Powaqa, the abducted daughter of its chief.
Glass guides the trappers and survivors to Fort Kiowa on foot. The mission is to escape death and find a safe haven for some time. It all follows the film’s most talked-about and arguably its greatest scene, in which Hugh Glass is mauled and almost killed by a massive grizzly bear. Assumed almost dead by everyone else, trapper John Fitzgerald suggests for Glass to be killed out of mercy, as that would speed things up for their own traveling too. When two of the volunteers fail to pull the trigger, the decision is reversed, but Fitzgerald makes sure to have Glass dead for whatever reason, and he’s then caught by Hawk.
Then begins a tale of bloodlust, vengeance, and survival, in which the security of one’s life is as grounded and gritty as possible. The characters may not be written with the most depth, but the situations they’re in are incredibly detailed and nuanced, and greatly contribute to the development of characters.
Hugh Glass has one of the greatest character journeys of revenge in modern cinema. From all things going south for his camp to that powerful encounter with a bear, Glass is someone who endures throughout, and since he’s among the very few who do so, he has the burden of witnessing the loss of his close ones. It’s an extremely good example of the predicaments defining characters.
Where most films fail and The Revenant succeeds regarding this is that the characters feed on the predicaments and the sequences are not themselves the most important aspect.
Now to talk about all the remarkable aspects of the film. Emmanuel Lubezki is one of the greatest cinematographers of the modern age, and this is most definitely among his greatest works of all time. The way all the imagery adds to the direction is phenomenal. Ryuichi Sakamoto and Alva Noto’s original score is praiseworthy too.
The screenwriting duo of Iñárritu and Mark L. Smith has brought this novel to life in the most real possible way and utilize every aspect of Iñárritu’s own direction in the best possible ways. Iñárritu’s direction may not have been the very best of the film’s release year even though the Oscars disagree, but The Revenant is still one of the most finely directed films of the 2010s.
The best aspect, though, are the performances of Leonardo DiCaprio and Tom Hardy, both of who gives arguably the best performance of their careers.
The Bottom Line
The Revenant is a film that succeeds in almost every aspect. It’s almost flawless and is a near-masterpiece in terms of about any facet. The only thing that keeps it from getting only half of the fifth star is that it’s not ultimately original, and some techniques of direction that it harnesses are often seen in Iñárritu’s work.