The Revenant, directed by Alejandro G. Inarritu, is an epic film inspired by the true story of tracker and hunter, Hugh Glass, who in 1823 survived a vicious bear attack and, after being abandoned by his companions, hiked 200km back to the nearest American settlement.
All of the filming took place in the wilderness of Canada, America and, at times, Argentina. There was no built set and the actors and crew lived where they filmed for months at a time. The dedication of the crew certainly paid off, as the locations and landscapes are what make the movie come alive.
The lighting used is completely natural light, and when you watch the film with this in mind it truly looks like real life, a unique quality in a film. You also notice how the lighting dramatically influenced the cinematography, with the natural glare of the sun used in shots throughout the entire film.
Although the story could have been condensed into a film about half the running time, the beauty of the locations and the finely tuned cinematography are worth the extended viewing time. The landscape shots are breathtaking and the bold use of cinematography is impossible to ignore. In the opening scene for example, when the hunters are attacked by Native Americans, the scene is filmed as only a few long, extended shots, in which the camera is slowly rotated to capture a 360 degree view of the battle. These slow moving extended shots create a sense of presence among the action and a feeling of solitude in the wilderness. The viewer has an ongoing view of the entire scene rather than half second shots jumping from one character to the next causing them to possibly miss what is actually happening. Characters naturally come in and out of shot as the action moves around the camera.
Leonardo DiCaprio’s performance as Hugh Glass is certainly raw and courageous. It’s clear he was highly committed to the role and he does an exceptional job of conveying fear, anger and frustration with what has to be a record for the least words spoken by the main character in a film. If he is to win an Oscar for this performance, it is well deserved, however, I don’t believe it’s his best performance to date.
Do not go to see this movie expecting a complex plot line with major twists and turns. Go to see this movie for the beauty of the landscapes, the uniqueness of the directing and cinematography, and the dedication it must have taken for DiCaprio, a vegetarian, to bite into a raw liver. This film is about commitment to a story and to art. It’s worth committing two and a half to go and see it in the cinema.
The Revenant teaser trailer
Interview with Leonardo DiCaprio about playing Hugh Glass