‘The Revenant’ serves revenge cold

Jack Johnson is a columnist for the College Heights Herald.

Jack Johnson

Cinema has come a long way in terms of presentation. No other movie from 2015 exemplifies this progression more than Alejandro Inarritu’s epic “The Revenant.”

The film depicts frontiersman Hugh Glass, played by Leonardo DiCaprio, as he embarks on a journey of survival and revenge through wintery Montana and South Dakota circa 1823. A basic plot synopsis: Glass acts as the driving force behind a trapping expedition led by Captain Andrew Henry; both are accompanied by several other men, most notably Glass’ half-native son Hawk and resident tool John Fitzgerald, played by Tom Hardy. Glass endures a grisly injury early in the film as well as a pivotal loss. With the threat of the great North American wild and the native Arikaree tribe, Glass has his work cut out for him.

Cinematography in “The Revenant” is absolutely unflinching. If you’ve ever wanted to see DiCaprio get the crap beaten out of him for two hours, then this movie is for you.

Advertisement

The film’s practical effects are visceral. Several scenes are so lifelike that they made me a little uneasy. In addition to superb makeup effects and wardrobe design, Inarritu chose to film every scene with only natural light. That means for any given scene, the crew would have about 90 minutes to get the shot — a tall order. These efforts really drive home the idea that DiCaprio deserves an Oscar. Frankly, the guy did a phenomenal job acting this role. The audience is perpetually aware that Glass is a very angry, very determined man.

Hardy also gives an excellent performance as Fitzgerald, the film’s primary antagonist. Since everything bad that befalls Glass, the protagonist, results from his location in the early American wilderness, most viewers will probably walk away thinking the film’s focus is Glass’ struggle against the frontier. However, Hardy’s nuanced performance allows an alternative view of Fitzgerald: a man — a secondary protagonist — doing what he has to do to survive and thrive in a brutal world. The animosity between DiCaprio and Hardy in the culminating scenes is almost palpable.

The film might not be “Kill Bill” meets “Survivor Man,” but it’s a heck of a thrill ride just the same. Out of all the movies 2015 presented, “The Revenant” might be the most dedicated to its craft. It pulls no punches. Glass’ experiences are guttural, dangerous and real — and this film is, too.