Courtesy of YouTube
BY JASON FITZSIMMONS
“The Revenant,” is director Alejandro G. Inarritu’s foray into the contemporary western genre. The film stars Leonardo DiCaprio as the heroic frontiersman Hugh Glass, who is left for dead in the 19th century American frontier by the sadistic John Fitzgerald (Tom Hardy) after being mauled by a bear. From the wilderness, Glass emerges from near-death driven only by revenge. In this epic quest he must survive nature and man as he makes his trek back to civilization.
In retrospect, the masterful cinematography of Emmanuel Lubezki is a transportive experience. Lubezki’s wide panning shots of the American wilderness evokes the grand scale from a time that was, and is, long gone. Particularly captivating are the action sequences (such as a high octane chase by Native Americans) but these are rare moments. This is a slow burn of a film as the beginning takes a lot of time to set up characters and integral plot points that establish the motivations for the core narrative. Consequently, the film does not become an engaging cinematic experience until 45 minutes in. Another detriment is how dialogue scenes between characters are filmed. Rather than cutting to a close up of the character speaking, the camera pans from character to character. Some of these scenes go for several minutes continuously having the camera rolling, similar to Inarritu’s “Birdman” which netted several Oscars last year. It is evident that is part of the director’s artistic vision to his cinematography, showcasing the background details in each of these scenes in a theater-esque style. However, as a viewer, I found this distracting and became disengaged. Thankfully, this is less prevalent as the film continues.
Though there are some pacing issues and cinematic blunders, the real draw to the film is the performances. DiCaprio’s Glass is a complex protagonist, a man whose past is characterized by death, murder, and a little mystery. It is through his journey struggling to survive, he grows on the viewer as his ordeal intensifies and he is pushed to his breaking point. Equally as interesting a character is Hardy’s Fitzgerald, the main antagonist,who although commits reprehensible acts gives justification for his villainous disposition. The rest of the supporting cast including Domhnall Gleeson, Will Poulter and Forrest Goodluck who all give solid performances for the limited screen time allotted to them but this is clearly DiCaprio and Hardy’s vehicle. Overall, this is film is an incredible journey that must be seen to the end.