The Revenant refers to a person who has returned, and supposedly from the dead.
In this case, it’s Hugh Glass (no, not Hugh Jass), portrayed by Leonardo DiCaprio. As we’re introduced to this frontiersman in the 1820s, he’s a member of a team of fur pelt traders who’s husband to a murdered wife. Father to a murd… oh, hang on, that was Gladiator. His son, Hawk (Forrest Goodluck), is fine. Alas, Hugh is faring less well after an attack from a vicious bear, who’s smarter than the average bear, because he swiped his pic-a-nic basket, and never mind The Musketeers’ “One for all, and all for one”, because out of this sorry bunch, in Hugh’s weakened condition, not all of them have his best interests at heart.
From an opening battle scene to simply watching Glass traverse the land as he aims to take back what he lost, director Alejandro González Iñárritu builds brilliantly on his work with last year’s Birdman, where the camera swooped the set to give the impression that the entire movie was shot in one take. It doesn’t go quite that far here, but there are still a number of one-take scenes, each lasting a few minutes, and each having a glorious cinematic look, as does the rest of the film, even if its shorter segments.
Iñárritu’s expertise makes even the scenes in the woodland expanse feel claustrophobic. It’s so incredible the way he moves the camera around, positioning it in ways that just don’t seem physically possible. I would love to see an extra on the Blu-ray about this (as well as one about the bear attack which is incredible beyond words and so I won’t go into detail here). I could just spend page after page expressing how fantastic the movie looks, so it’s shorter just to recommend that you see it. Your eyes will thank you for it. In fact, this film would’ve been FAR more deserving of being shot in 70mm Ultra Panavision than The Hateful Eight, given the incredible location shooting, and also the fact that Tarantino’s three-hour yawn-fest spent the majority of the running time inside a cabin, not taking any advantage of its film stock.
Despite there not being a great deal of dialogue for long periods of time, DiCaprio consolidates what a great actor he can be with the true story of Glass, as the temperature reached lows of -40C, and throughout the course of the production, this vegetarian ate raw offal and also slept in the belly of a dead horse. He won the Golden Globe for Best Actor for his performance. Will a BAFTA and Oscar also join alongside it?
Also in the main cast are the leader of the gang, Captain Andrew Henry (Ex Machina‘s Domhnall Gleeson), and the two men tasked with keeping Glass’ spirits up, John Fitzgerald (Tom Hardy, always good value) and Bridger (Will Poulter). It’s interesting to see Poulter in a drama after doing comedy well in We’re The Millers, although most of what he does here is in reacting to what’s going on rather than taking the lead. Most of Hardy’s dialogue is unintelligible (so if there’s a subtitled screening available, I’d recommend it). Maybe he just made a lot of it up, given that he doesn’t like reading scripts, but the actors’ speech was also affected by the fact they’re working in freezing conditions, as the film was shot chronologically for an 80-day schedule over nine months, with the director, plus cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki‘s looking to shoot in the remote locations using only natural light to make it realistic. Hence, they only had 90 minutes of perfect light available each day. Miss the shot and it gets knocked on until the next day. Unsurprisingly, things fell behind schedule while they filmed in Canada, and as spring was turning to summer and the snow was melting, they had to up sticks and transfer to southern Argentina where wintry conditions was still in abundance.
The Revanant features the language of Pawnee… a bit like me after I turn round on my chair in the office and bang it on the metal struts of the desk. (I’m here all week, tip your waitress)
Yes, it’s a very long film at 156 minutes. I didn’t feel it was too long for the story it was telling, although the last 20 minutes or so did feel rather dragged out, and that time could’ve been spent on other parts of the journey, if they were insistent on retaining the running time.
Running time: 156 minutes
Studio: 20th Century Fox
Format: 2.35:1 (Anamorphic Panavision, ARRIRAW (3.4K) (6.5K), Digital Intermediate (4K), Redcode RAW (6K))
Released: January 15th 2016
Director: Alejandro G Iñárritu
Producers: Steve Golin, Alejandro G Iñárritu, David Kanter, Arnon Milchan, Mary Parent, Keith Redmon and James W Skotchdopole
Screenplay: Mark L Smith and Alejandro G Iñárritu (based in part on the novel by Michael Punke)
Music: Alva Noto and Ryûichi Sakamoto
Hugh Glass: Leonardo DiCaprio
John Fitzgerald: Tom Hardy
Captain Andrew Henry: Domhnall Gleeson
Bridger: Will Poulter
Hawk: Forrest Goodluck
Anderson: Paul Anderson
Murphy: Kristoffer Joner
Stubby Bill: Joshua Burge
Elk Dog: Duane Howard
Powaqa: Melaw Nakehk’o
Toussaint: Fabrice Adde
Hikuc: Arthur RedCloud
Boone: Christopher Rosamond
Dave Stomach Wound: Robert Moloney
Jones: Lukas Haas
Fryman: Brendan Fletcher
Weston: Tyson Wood
Beckett: McCaleb Burnett
French Trapper #1: Vincent Leclerc
French Trapper #2: Stephane Legault
French Interpreter: Emmanuel Bilodeau
Coulter Naked Pale Trapper: Cole Vandale
Billy Brother Trapper: Thomas Guiry
Johnnie Brother Trapper: Scott Olynek
Pregnant Pawnee Woman: Amelia Crow Show
Scalped Shirtless Trapper: Peter Strand Rumpel
Gordon in Shack: Timothy Lyle
Trapper Hatchet in Back: Kory Grim
Reviewer of movies, videogames and music since 1994. Aortic valve operation survivor from the same year. Running DVDfever.co.uk since 2000. Nobel Peace Prize winner 2021.