FILM REVIEW: The Revenant

The Revenant is a huge, sprawling epic of a film.

Based in part on Michael Punke’s 2002 novel of the same name, it charts the story of frontiersman Hugh Glass, a member of a pelt (fur) trading expedition through the harsh, but beautiful American wilderness in the 1820s. As though the wild terrain of this unforgiving landscape is not obstacle enough to the expedition, it is made all the more difficult by the looming shadow of a relentless pursuit of its members by the Native American Arikara tribe, hell-bent on retribution for the kidnapping of the daughter of one of the tribe’s elders; something attributed, rightly or wrongly, to Glass’ expedition party.

Fleeing for their lives, their numbers decimated through ambush and combat, Glass’ party push on through the rapidly gathering winter weather in an attempt to reach the sanctuary of base camp.

Things however take a gruesome twist when Glass, whilst hunting alone, scares a female grizzly bear escorting her cubs through the forest, and is mercilessly attacked for his troubles.

Although still alive following his ordeal (barely – *pun alert*) this now presents a further, unwanted hindrance for the expedition party who must somehow carry him many miles back to safety. Understandably and considering his condition, it is deemed not worth the party’s effort and under orders of party leader, Captain Andrew Henry (Domhnall Gleeson), three men – one of whom is Glass’ native American son, Hawk – are left behind to ensure that, when the time surely arrives, Glass receives the appropriate burial and send off that he deserves.

That’s the idea at least, but this is a problem for one of the three men – his supposed confidant John Fitzgerald (the excellent Tom Hardy) – whose own plans differ significantly from the orders that he is meant to be following.

On committing the worst imaginable act, Fitzgerald departs, leaving Glass for dead. Glass however will not die and guided by the spirit of his murdered Native American wife and mother of his son, he begins the slow and physically agonising voyage back to base camp, with one thing only on his mind.

At times brutal and unforgiving, at other times inspiring and uplifting, The Revenant is a story of retribution and redemption; of the force of nature and the complexities of human nature, and in DiCaprio, it boasts an actor absolutely at the peak of his powers, producing an awe-inspiring performance of great distinction.

Stunning, sweeping shots of this most beautiful, almost mythical of landscapes contrast sharply with the raw fight for survival that plays out below within its snowy terrain.

Director Alejandro González Iñárritu has created, with much love and attention to detail in evidence, a big, beautiful, bold and grizzly (both figuratively and literally), non-stop sumptuous treat for the eyes, ears and imagination. A truly stunning piece of timeless cinema.

A solid awards contender – be in no doubt about that.

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