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article imageReview: ‘The Revenant’ earns accolades by expertly traumatizing audiences Special

By Sarah Gopaul     Jan 17, 2016 in Entertainment
Alejandro González Iñárritu’s ‘The Revenant’ is a grim, raw and unforgettable depiction of survival against the odds as Leonardo DiCaprio portrays a man who amazingly lives through a bear attack.
Man vs. nature and man vs. man are two of the oldest tales to be told by the campfire as nothing seems to be more pleasing than people’s ability to dominate something or someone else. The root of evil – and most quests – is said to lie in money, sex and power, though the latter is often the most motivating since it can initiate the other two. Vengeance, however, can make one blind to anything else but its fulfillment. Someone truly bent on revenge will stop at nothing to get it, which both gives them strength and makes them weak. In The Revenant, a man returns from near-death to get retribution from his betrayer.
Hugh Glass (Leonardo DiCaprio) was a skilled huntsmen, who offered his services to trappers by acting as their guide to the most fertile locations. Alone one day in the woods, Hugh stumbles upon a mother bear who attacks him to protect her cubs. His wounds are life-threatening, but he miraculously clings to life. The company’s captain (Domhnall Gleeson) requests volunteers to stay behind and give Hugh a proper burial when the time comes as the rest return to camp. Hugh’s son (Forrest Goodluck) and a young man named Bridger (Will Poulter) stay out of loyalty, but a malicious man named John Fitzgerald (Tom Hardy) lingers for the bonus pay. In spite of their good intentions, the younger men are no match for John’s ruthlessness and Hugh is unceremoniously abandoned in the wintery wilderness. Determined to get retribution, Hugh not only survives against all odds but manages to track his betrayer back to camp.
The movie is based on a true story, though the script took some liberties to enhance the drama and include regular action beats. The main narrative centres on Hugh’s search for revenge, but there is a secondary story about Natives tracking and attacking expeditions. At various times throughout the picture, multiple storylines are shown including those mentioned as well as the other men’s efforts to return to camp without guidance. The result is a picture of constant uneasiness and unwavering intensity.
Much has been said about the difficulty of the production as director Alejandro González Iñárritu resolved to only shoot with natural light, and the entire cast and crew were subjected to the harsh elements of the northern Canadian winter as everything was captured on location. Playing the film’s main protagonist was especially demanding of DiCaprio who is called upon to perform the picture’s most physically and mentally challenging scenes. The bear attack is one of the most brutal acts of violence ever depicted on screen, which feels as if it goes on forever in spite of it probably lasting less than five minutes. There are other scenes that are equally raw as they stay true to the necessity and ugliness of survival in the wild. Hardy’s transformation is more physical as he adopts a heavy, gruff accent and ragged appearance to play Hugh’s adversary. These are likely major contributing factors to both the filmmaker’s and actors’ award wins and nominations leading up to the Oscars.
But the film is only as effective as its appearance so credit must also be given to the realistic representation of everything depicted. The visceral nature of some scenes have already been discussed, but the same attention is given to the vast landscapes by which they’re surrounded. Long shots of seemingly endless tundra and menacing mountains looming over their path are simultaneously intimidating and breath-taking. The entire movie is simply striking and a feat that enhances all others.
Often the most beleaguered productions result in unforgettable screen experiences and this film will not refute that correlation.
Director: Alejandro González Iñárritu
Starring: Leonardo DiCaprio, Tom Hardy and Will Poulter
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