Hot off the success of Birdman, Mexican director-extraordinaire Alejandro González Iñárritu aims for gold again with this gritty, contemplative, stupendously gorgeous survival drama/revenge Western that overwhelms the senses but lands a softer punch, both intellectually and emotionally, than one hopes.
In the wild frontier of 1820s America, DiCaprio plays real-life scout Hugh Glass, left for dead by his own hunting team following a near-fatal run-in with a grizzly. The subsequent storyline that sees Glass persevere despite impossible odds on his quest for vengeance is too lean to justify the 2.5-hour running time, a problem underlined by the constant insertions of scenic shots whose mystic appeal eventually wears thin when a case of geography fatigue kicks in.
That said, what heavenly footage cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki has delivered! From microscopic close-ups to panoramic spreads, colours, patterns and textures engage in an intense interplay with light and space, capturing nature in all its daunting, transfixing glory.
The bottom line? With the level of performances and quality of craftsmanship involved, this surefire awards contender definitely has the goods to hold you awestruck, even if its rather simplistic construct and overblown spiritual element keep a visceral filmgoing experience from also being a mind-blowing one.
The Revenant | Directed by Alejandro González Iñárritu (USA 2015) with Leonardo DiCaprio, Tom Hardy. Starts January 6
Originally published in issue #145, January 2015.