2015 – USA
Director: Alejandro González Iñárritu
Words: C. Abbott
Now it is important to preface, and impossible to talk about this film, without mentioning the supposed drama during its production. During the uncharacteristically long shoot of nine months, there was constant friction on set between director Alejandro González Iñárritu and various cast and crew members, causing some to leave or be fired. It was brought into question the regard for safety Iñárritu had, yet regardless of what ones opinion is of this, it has been shown time and again throughout the history of cinema that productions brought to the limits are often the most fascinating. Iñárritu clearly wanted to create the harsh vision of this brutal tale, and through that his sets were not an easy place to work on. Yet as he stated himself, “If we ended up in greenscreen with coffee and everybody having a good time, everybody will be happy, but most likely the film would be a piece of shit.”
Following a group of fur trappers during the 1820s, we see Hugh Glass, an expert of these untameable lands left for dead following a savage bear attack. We journey with this man on a staggering quest of vengeance and determination as he overcomes the impossible: death. From the very opening you are taken aback by the astounding visuals. Emmanuel Lubezki once again proving how he has cinematography down to a science, from his work on Children of Men to Tree of Life, he frames narratives in a voyeuristic and naturalistic style that compliments The Revenant perfectly. The decision was made to shoot almost entirely in natural lighting and harnessing the awe of the twilight hours in the day. Shot meticulously over the course of 80 days, it will be a long time before cinema sees something quite like this again. Often poetic, we are thrown from set piece to set piece with magnificent interludes of calming serenity. Lubezki and Iñárritu have captured the vivid landscapes of North America in a time of vicious brutality and relentless domination.
It seems Iñárritu has become something of a cinematic perfectionist, his previous film Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) used seamless editing to achieve a stage-like, theatrical effect. This was something pioneered by Hitchcock with the 1948 film Rope. Now his latest film focus is on the natural lighting and chronological order of shooting, Kubrick achieved this with 1975’s Barry Lyndon. Iñárritu has built on these cinematic milestones and perfected them with such a degree of accuracy and sheer talent for his craft that it is almost impossible to see him as anything other than a brilliant visionary. The results of his latest vision are something to behold and cherish in a time when big budget films such as this are increasingly a hollow, studio backlot affair. Not only this, but a performance by Leonardo DiCaprio that may finally win him his Oscar, Tom Hardy on his consistently mumbling top form, an understated performance from Domhnall Gleeson and the entire cast giving it their all, there is little to criticise here. This is a film that must be seen, and one made to last the test of time.