200 years ago in America. The incredibly beautiful scenery of unspoiled countryside is just as ubiquitous as the blind forces of nature and man. Leo DiCaprio’s absolute commitment to his role is in line with Alejandro González Iñárritu’s brilliant screenplay. You’ll find yourself shifting anxiously in your seat for long passages of this 2.5-hour flick, a breathtakingly tense and uncompromising drama devoid of any Hollywood glam. The Revenant is a hugely absorbing movie full of challenges and ultimately no rewards.
The title may seem a bit off-putting to some as it evokes Schwarzenegger antics of a lone avenger seeking retaliation at any cost. This is a notion that couldn’t be further away from what you’ll see when witnessing the revenant, aka Hugh Glass (Leonardo DiCaprio).
The Revenant is quite simply the most engrossing movie ever made about the early days of American settlement.
The wild-west scenario depicted here presents itself as an uncompromising and staggeringly beautiful habitat populated by savage beasts and indigenous people fighting the white men, everyone leading a life merely for the sake of survival. Here the laws of man have little or no relevance whatsoever, which results in a world where it’s all homo homini lupus, or one man being a wolf to another man.
Once you’ve settled in your seat, you’ll soon forget there’s popcorn on your lap since the movie will have you devoured from the word go. We’re right in the thick of things as we walk through the deceptive calm of a flooded forest, hunting for deer with Hugh Glass and his half-blood son Hawk. A voice whispers “keep breathing”, which will prove a sound piece of advice for you as the peaceful scenery is about to be irretrievably lost with the first shot.
The Revenant’s ingredients are the same as those of any cliché’d 1960s western starring John Wayne, only that the cavalry is hopelessly lost and decimated amidst the fizzing arrows of a Pawnee attack, the trappers are far from our amicable fellows in The Life and Times of Grizzly Adams, and even the grizzly steps out of line as we witness it attack and munch off the back of an unsuspecting trapper. For minutes. Iñárritu’s (Birdman) film is not for the squeamish and those with a faint heart, but – in terms of the cinematography – it’s just sheer brilliance.
But what’s with the revenge, you may wonder.
There’s blood revenge of one man longing for retaliation of his loss. There’s Pawnees exacting vengeance on the white man for ravaging their country by killing their people and animals and annexing their land. Then there’s omnipresent mother nature, presenting herself in her brutest guise by punishing everyone who isn’t strong or smart enough to play along with her rules.
Hugh Glass is the guy who bears the brunt and pain of revenge. Of course, this is what turns him into the revenant, but his revenge mission is devoid of any trace of laudable glory traditionally associated with such a noble mindset. His quest is that of breathless desperation, a human being battling the forces of nature and reckless men for the sole reason of having nothing else to live for other than the next piece of meat he can steal from a rotting animal carcass.
Look forward to brilliant acting and a delightfully unintelligible villain (Tom Hardy) in a screenplay where men are depicted in their brutish original version.