“I ain’t afraid to die anymore… I did it already.”
Oh goody! Another “inspired by true events” film. I mean, for crap’s sake, I’m getting sick of reading “based on a true story” in trailers and at the start films. Aren’t you? And critical acclaim or not, sitting down to watch my third dramatisation of a true story in less than a week – the others being here and here – The Revenant had absolutely NONE of my confidence.
Man. I’ve never been so happy to eat my words and stuff a bit of humble pie down my cake hole.
“Inspired” by the true story of Hugh Glass, a fur trapper in 1820’s Montana, The Revenant is the latest film from the Oscar winning director of last year’s Birdman and 2007’s Babel, Alejandro G. Iñárritu. It stars powerhouse couple – and two of my personal favourites – Leonardo DiCaprio and Tom Hardy in the good guy/bad guy one-two punch.
Set in the 1820’s, during the time of the Louisiana Purchase, Glass (DiCaprio) leads a team of hunters and trappers who narrowly survive a brutal ambush by some native tribes. Soon after escaping into the hills, Glass is savagely attacked by a grizzly bear. Stitched up to the best of their abilities by the remaining group members (including his son, Hawk (Forrest Goodluck)), Glass is reluctantly left for dead. Tom Hardy’s terrifying John Fitzgerald isn’t willing to wait for Glass to die and so decides to speed things up – only for Hawk to complicate matters.
Fitzgerald’s plans go horribly, horribly wrong when several miracles, a few strokes of luck and a twist of fate see Glass crawl from his makeshift grave. With revenge on his mind, the explorer must quite literally crawl after his prey. As time goes on and his body begins to heal, Hugh must brave the winter landscape, the roaming Native Americans and the wildlife to find retribution against his would-be murderer.
Man! Where to begin? Iñárritu’s direction, as expected, is stunning. The exceptionally long shots that have become a staple of his films in recent years are here in all their glory. For example, the opening ambush, filmed in one long, flowing shot, is comparable to the opening scene from Saving Private Ryan in its beauty and brutality. It is possibly one of the greatest scenes put to film in quite some time. Similarly, the bear attack is possibly the scariest, most viscerally affecting scene I’ve ever watched. As this animal literally tears strips out of DiCaprio’s hunter, every strike from those claws and every roar from this massive Grizzly had me pushing back in my seat wanting to get away from it. Every shot is beautifully framed. It looks cold, unforgiving and every splash of blood in the snow glistens beautifully.
Both guys in the lead roles are spectacular. DiCaprio’s performances over the years have always included stories of the lines he crossed pushing for the best performance he can; The Revenant is no different. Coming along with tales of making himself sick, forgetting he’s a vegetarian and chowing down on some raw bison liver, the man’s almost feral role of Hugh Glass is quite possibly his best role yet. If it wasn’t such a ridiculous ongoing joke over his constant snubbing by the Academy, I’d be screaming to give the man an Oscar for his role of the vengeful trapper. In the same vein, Tom Hardy’s cold and scary performance as Fitzgerald is maybe his best – and certainly his most terrifying since he spent his days being Charlie Bronson all those years ago. The pair chew up every scene they are in; and the ones they share – from the fast paced opener to the literally nail-biting last scene – are pure cinematic gold. And the supporting guys (including Domhall Gleeson and Will Poulter) all come together to bring you one of the most well performed movies in years.
The Revenant stands proud this year. In a sea of absolute dross chasing Academy gold, Iñárritu’s film is just a stunning masterpiece of a film that stays with you long after the lights have come up. It’s possibly the best film I have seen since last year’s Mad Max: Fury Road. The only reason I’m not screaming out loud for statues all around is because I haven’t seen Creed yet.
It’s not perfect, with a bit of sag in the middle that makes it feel needlessly long and some bloody awful dubbing of the native languages that stick out in such a great flick. But aside from that, The Revenant is easily in the running for the best film of the year already. Your move, 2016.