2016 should be the year that Leonardo DiCaprio bags his first Oscar, while Alejandro Gonzalez Innaritu picks his second for Best Director and Best Picture (following last year’s Birdman). As in the title of the film, DiCaprio is a revenant – a person who has returned supposedly from the dead.
Based on a true story, the premise of the film is one of revenge set against the backdrop of the bleak wilderness of America around 1820. Glass (played by DiCaprio) and his half-Indian son are fur trappers, whose party is attacked by a group of Indians intent on stealing their fur so that they can trade it with the French. The decimated party then struggle against the elements to make their way back to their base, whilst trying to shake off the Indians, who are intent on killing them and stealing the furs.
On the journey back Glass is brutally mauled by a bear defending its cubs and as the conditions of the journey home worsen – and Glass’s condition deteriorates – decisions are made by the group that he must be left behind. Without giving away any plot spoilers, Glass is left for dead at the hands of another frontiersman, Fitzgerald, played by Britain’s finest Tom Hardy, who grunts his way through each scene almost incoherently
The remainder of the film revolves around Glass’s attempts to get back to civilisation, (using his best Bear Grylls survival skills) to seek revenge again Fitzgerald whilst battling against Indians, nature and his own mortality.
At the hands of maverick and visionary director Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, this is cinema at its best, this is not just a story of revenge, it’s also about the power of the human spirit whilst facing adversity, it’s man’s battle with himself and nature. From the opening scenes of Glass’s wife whispering in the background whilst the camera meanders upstream we know we are seeing a film that is more than a story, it’s a visual and sensory experience.
The action sequences are truly remarkable and have a realness to them which I don’t feel I have witnessed before. From the attack on the trappers where every single camera movement has been thought out to minute detail, to the scene where Glass is being pursued on horseback, this is clearly a director at the top of his game. The cinematography captures the bleakness and alarming beauty of nature, whilst the sound captures the very essence of the scenes we are absorbing – the arrows piercing the flesh, and the whispering trees blown in the wind to name but a few.
The film has a savage beauty to it, as we often privy to seeing some of the bloodiest gut wrenching scenes ever on screen, reminiscent of a Tarantino movie. The most gruesome is definitely when we witness the aftermath of the bear attack on Glass and see the extensive injuries he has sustained.
Inarritu again delivers an incredible film, by all means this is not easy to watch at times due to the sheer brutality, but it’s also a thing of beauty like a Werner Herzog movie. DiCaprio excels in this movie, whilst his dialogue is short, it’s more about his overall performance – we feel every injury he sustains, and it’s harrowing even when he trying to communicate with his throat half ripped – yet he also provides a strong, deep ethereal character, and even stares cheekily into the camera.
Overall Verdict: This is by far one of the most incredible pictures I have seen, where both lead actor and director have truly connected and delivered an astonishing film which delivers on every sensory level.
Reviewer: Stephen Sclater