The Revenant

Dir: Alejandro G. Inarritu
Star: Leonardo DiCaprio, Tom Hardy, Domhnall Gleeson, Will Poulter

In 1823 Montana, a party of fur trappers is attacked by Indians, who believe them to have abducted their chief's daughter. The one-third who escape try and trek their way to safety, but their guide, Hugh Glass (Caprio) is severely mauled by a bear. He's left behind with his son and two others, including Fitzgerald (Gleeson), who ends up killing Glass's son in front of the injured man, and leaving the guide for dead in a shallow grave. Only, Glass is not dead, crawling from the dirt to begin a single-minded and relentless mission, first to get out of the wilderness, and then to track down the man who killed his son.

Man, DiCaprio has come a long, long way from his days as a teen heart-throb in Titanic, hasn't he? No-one will be swooning over him in this one, where he starts off grubby, then passes through "mutilated" and "festering" on his way down - though his pursuit suggests a T-101 is perhaps the most appropriate label. The other main factor which gives this appeal is Emmanuel Lubezki's cinematography, which is less fluid than entirely liquid, flowing in and around the characters as they go through the various hells that the wilderness can throw at them [while 1820's Montana looks very nice, it appears closer to Australia, in that it appears everything and everyone there is trying to kill you]. It's a delight to watch, albeit a harrowing one, which doesn't flinch one inch from the brutality - the bear attack seems to go on forever.

At 156 minutes, it does occasionally become a slog of its own, and if there's one sequence of Glass trudging through snow, looking dead-eyed, there's twenty of them, though you can only admire the commitment of the cast and crew, on what can hardly have been a cake-walk of a shoot. There seem to have been a stream of these "revisionist" Westerns of late, upping the ante on the violence and intensity; it's not a trend I mind, as long as the results are as well performed and shot as here. That this is largely based on a true story [and, for once, that label isn't a significant fiction from the creators] simply makes it even more impressive.

[January 2016]

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