Haunting tale of survival

by Gazette Reporter

How far would you go in the pursuit of justice? That is the question that lies at the bloody heart of The Revenant – a visceral and vengeful “inspired by true events” epic that sees Leonardo DiCaprio as a frontiersman abandoned in the bleak American wilderness with revenge as his sole fuel for survival.
In a performance that sees its star crawling naked through the snow and consuming raw buffalo liver, it could be argued that the real question being asked here is – how far will DiCaprio have to go to in order to bring home that elusive Oscar?
And with The Revenant securing 12 nominations for the awards next month, including a Best Actor nomination for DiCaprio, this looks like it could be the year that finally does it.
It is a fitting follow on from last year’s ceremony which saw director Alejandro G Inarritu take home an armful of awards for the effervescent and psychedelic tour-de-force that was Birdman.
A plethora of award nominations is one of the only discernible links between both of Inarritu’s recent films. While on the surface Birdman was whimsical and surreal, The Revenant is gritty, gruesome, and at times, overwhelmingly raw.
Based on a novel of the same name, which in turn was based on early 20th Century retelling of Wild West tales, this is a story that has had several layers of aggrandisement heaped upon it on its way to screen.
Hugh Glass (DiCaprio) is a tracker who embarks on an expedition to gather furs in the frigid depths of South Dakota under the command of Captain Andrew Henry (Domhnall Gleeson).
An intense opening scene depicts the absolute carnage that follows when the trappers are waylaid by a Native American war party, whose land they are pillaging.
The muddy, bloody battle becomes stupendous in its scope, and the few remaining fur trappers left in its wake are forced to forge a path through the wilderness in an attempt to reach home.
Much like Inarritu brought the cityscape to life in Birdman, here the tall pine forests and snow-laden slopes become vitalized.
The Revenant is thronging with stunning shots that at once capture both the inherent beauty and peril of the natural world.
Hugh Glass is scouting alone when he is attacked and utterly mauled by a Grizzly bear. Barely alive, the crew are loathe to leave him, but do not have the resources to get him back to safety.
One of the frontiersmen, John Fitzgerald (Tom Hardy) is paid to stay behind until Glass dies and give him a proper burial, but chooses to abandon him, crippled and defenceless some days later, setting in motion Glass’ astounding journey to seek revenge.
Played out over almost two-and-a-half hours, The Revenant may be a gruelling tale, but it makes for an easy watch. Dominated by DiCaprio’s terrifying and primal performance, and bolstered by Hardy and Gleeson’s also excellent turns, The Revenant is a film that strips things down their base components.
The natural world becomes both exquisite and treacherous. Human beings become both angelic and monstrous.
And brutality becomes both heinous and routine.
An overreliance on CGI at times mars what otherwise feels like a deeply grounded and at times horrifically real film. But that should not discourage viewers too much.
Inarritu has managed to craft something special in The Revenant – by focusing on this small but extraordinary piece of history, he manages to obliquely tell a much larger story of the birth of the American frontiers.
It is a story dominated by men, exploitation, greed, and blood; and a story that you won’t regret watching.
Verdict: 9/10

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