Many moviegoers of late have been hit in the face with a visually stunning and overly intense piece of cinema from Alejandro Iñárritu, director of last year’s Academy Award-winning Birdman, with “The Revenant,” in which Leonardo DiCaprio stars as 19th-century frontiersman Hugh Glass.
It was an extremely ambitious production for all involved, as Iñárritu insisted on filming in only natural settings and using only natural light, no green-screens allowed.
As a result of this fanaticism, the movie was shot completely outdoors in the rainforests and tundra of the Canadian Rockies—except for one scene moved to Tierra Del Fuego, the southern tip of Argentina, due to improper weather.
And it shows. The cinematography, led by Emmanuel Lubezki, is easily the most stunning part of the movie, with vast panoramas and dense forests lit only by the sun. A few scenes spin around to show the whole scale of the wilderness, making viewers a little dizzy and leaving them dazed in the northern climes of colonial America.
Due to the enormous scale of the project, viewers are practically placed into the extremely harsh life of an early-1800s fur trapper in the American frontier. The men in the fur trapping expedition face constant danger from Native Americans—“Injuns” as they’re called—hunger, hypothermia, grizzly bears and, most dangerous of all, each other.
Since the plot is so simple, there is no danger of spoiling anything. The whole movie is basically Hugh Glass (DiCaprio) trying to seek revenge on one of his partners, Fitzgerald (Tom Hardy), after Glass is mauled by a grizzly bear in an extremely realistic attack sequence and left for dead by Fitzgerald.
To add to the plot deficiency, Glass also strives to protect a Native American boy whom he calls his “son,” with little significance or backstory to make him anything but a source of trite emotion.
But what the movie lacks in this regard it makes up with great dramatic performances from Hardy, Gleeson and, of course, DiCaprio. The grand question: Will this finally be Leo’s first Oscar-winning role?
It certainly could be, as the role had him eating raw liver and sleeping in a horse carcass among other extremities, and has already won him a Golden Globe.
As it stands, “The Revenant” is looking very promising for this Oscar season with a whopping 12 nominations, including Best Film, Director, Actor, Supporting Actor and Cinematography, a testament to the great amount of work that went into the production and the stunning film that resulted.