If the closest you’ve come to handling an animal pelt, is slipping into your sheepskin boots and if you would be happier in a Japanese restaurant eating sashimi, than biting a chunk out of a wriggling fish, live from the river, you may well find The Revenant a bit much to cope with. This Western survival movie is exhausting and challenging to watch.
But it’s not as challenging as it was for the ‘Revenant’ (Leonardo DiCaprio). Inspired by true events, it’s been tipped as DiCaprio’s best bid for his elusive Oscar and it is Golden Globe and Bafta-nominated. The normally baby-faced star looks the part on this occasion, with bushy beard, reputedly infested by fleas on location and he plays a blinder, as Hugh Glass, marooned in the middle of the uncharted wilderness of Montana and South Dakota in the 1820s.
After a lengthy gestation period for the movie, actors endured icy rivers and reputedly came close to hypothermia during the process. Glass even climbed inside a horse’s carcass naked, to survive and sleep in the bloody chasm.
The epic begins when a shattered Glass is maimed, scarred and left for dead after a bloody battle with a grizzly bear. He is the Revenant (returning spirit) of the title, not to be confused with a previous comedy horror of the same name and battles grief and personal loss to survive in the wilderness.
The cinematography is stunning, with direction by hot Mexican, Alejandro G. Inarritu, who previously scooped an Oscar for Birdman and it was shot in Canada, the US and Argentina. Snowy landscapes and shimmering birch trees abound, shot in natural light, with campfire scenes to die for. Well, actually everything is to die for, with attacks and plunder by Pawnees, Sioux, trappers, French frontiersmen and cavalry. Everyone is at war with someone else, meanwhile trying to pass an endurance test with the worst that Mother Nature can add to the mix.
There’s a search for a kidnapped native American girl and some philosophy, reminiscent of Seraphim Falls too. The Revenant also stars Tom Hardy, with another appearance by Domhnall Gleeson, fresh from his Star Wars role, with the Irish actor’s star going stratospheric now, as regards Hollywood acclaim.
Above all, it’s an epic tale, with religious and moral dilemmas, but could have had a sharper edit and at times verges on the comedic in some of its sustained fight sequences. The music by Japanese composer Sokamoto is stunning and atmospheric, so go see and wonder how the earlier settlers, some of our own ancestors survived in the wild and how you might cope in the challenges.
Personally, I could do the fish, but not the cold.
by Liz Kennedy
The Revenant is certificate 15 and is 156 minutes in duration.