02. THE REVENANT
Director: Alejandro G. Iñárritu
Release date: January 7, 2016
The comfort of a home cooked meal and a long hot shower was essential after enduring 156 minutes of The Revenant. Writer-director Alejandro G. Iñárritu’s follow-up to the Academy Award-winning Birdman is cinema at its most visceral and immersive, a bleak revenge tale and survivalist epic that weighs the emotional impact of blood, snow and dirt above dialogue and characterisation.
The premise is simple. It’s 1823 and Hugh Glass (Leonardo DiCaprio) is guide to a military sanctioned hunting party who are traipsing through the cold wilderness of the Louisiana Purchase to fill their quota of pelts. Minutes into the film the group are ambushed by the Arikara native tribe and in a stunningly realised sequence, in which you’re inclined to duck your head as arrows fly at the camera, a small number of hunters escape. The remainder are slaughtered. It’s a bloody and brilliant set piece.
Soon after, Glass is brutally mauled by a ferocious mother grizzly bear, a feat in movie magic. Slashed and bloody, Glass is discovered on the brink of death and, after attempting to carry him on the stretcher, the hunting party makes the tough decision to leave Glass behind. His son, a half-Pawnee native called Hawk, refuses to leave his father’s side. Another of the party, John Fitzgerald (Tom Hardy) is offered money to stay and make sure Glass is allowed to shuffle off this mortal coil in peace and relative comfort. But Fitzgerald grows impatient and decides to expedite the process. In a brief struggle, Hardy’s character kills Hawk and leaves Glass behind. This proves a mistake.
The themes in The Revenant are suitably simple, but no less profound. In the hands of Iñárritu, who knows how to harness the escapist power of cinema, a thin premise becomes something not just brutally humanistic – but almost biblical in scope. The result is a modern classic, a grand achievement of visceral and emotional power.