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Categories: Movie Reviews

Alejandro G. Iñárritu’s visceral drama “The Revenant” is deservedly earning Leonardo DiCaprio awards attention – but it might be too much for some audiences. 

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The Revenant, by the Mexican director Alejandro G. Iñárritu, is definitely one of the most anticipated releases of 2016. This weekend, star Leonardo DiCaprio won a Golden Globe for Best Actor, with Iñárritu also winning 2 awards for Best Motion Picture – Drama and Best Director. You might also know Iñárritu from some of his other successes such as Babel (2006), Biutiful (2010), and Birdman (2014), and this film certainly continues his winning streak. 

The Revenant is based on a novel by Michael Punke, which in turn is based on true events involving American frontiersmen on an fur trading expedition in the 1820’s. When Hugh Glass (DiCaprio) gets mauled by a bear, he is left for dead by some of his hunting companions. From then onwards, he starts off alone to journey through the wilderness, relying on his knowledge of nature and the language of the indigenous peoples to keep himself alive. The story is mainly one about fellowship, revenge, love, and most of all, survival, in the same line as Sean Penn’s Into The Wild (2007), or Danny Boyle’s 127 Hours (2010). 

Alongside DiCaprio are Tom Hardy as the treacherous John Fitzgerald, an opportunist liar, and Domhnall Gleeson as Andrew Henry, the reliable captain of the team. Among some fresh young talent is Forrest Goodluck, who plays Glass’s half-blood Native American son Hawk. The Revenant is Goodluck’s first feature film, and he proves his ability to show authentic emotions and speak two languages – English and Caddoan. 

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Cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki (Gravity, Sleepy Hollow) simultaneously shows us the beauty of nature and its power to destroy. The film is shot partly in Canada and Argentina, both of which assure snowy landscapes. Lubezki catches every glaring sunbeam in the most aesthetic way, and the viewer cannot be anything but moved by the peacefulness these images reflect in contrast to the roughness and pain these men experience. Rumours had it that much of the cast suffered from the freezing temperatures during the shooting. This is not surprising, as the atmosphere of the film really shows us what it is to be cold and indirectly makes us shiver as we watch. I could almost feel the ice-cold wind on my back.

Because The Revenant is about survival-of-the-fittest in the most primitive way, some scenes may be disturbing, due to the violence and the explicit skinning and eating of animals. Nothing is spared, so if you are a fundamental vegetarian or vegan, I recommend you don’t watch this 156 minutes-long epic. Iñárritu opted for the most naturalist way of representing reality, and some shots might be physically repellant. DiCaprio goes full-on in his performance, grunting, groaning, killing, and eating guts, and earns himself his Golden Globe. He once again proves himself to be an multi-talented actor, hopefully one finally on his way to an Oscar (pretty please!)

The Revenant is out in UK cinemas on Friday, January 15th. 

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Posted on Jan 13, 2016

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