20th Century Fox 156 Minutes R
This may be it for Leonardo DiCaprio. After four Best Actor nominations, he should start writing his Oscar acceptance speech. He just might get the nod for performance in this brutal but exquisite film. Director Alejandro González Iñárritu describes this as a story of adventure and survival about “resiience, endurance and revenge.”
Working again with Cinematographer Emannuel Lubezki better known as “Chivo” (who both won Oscars and for best film for BIRDMAN last year), they crafted a film shot under the most horrific conditions. Even some of the crew quit or were fired during a shoot some called a “living hell.” It took them from Canada where it wasn’t cold enough for the director, to the Southern most tip of Argentina near the Antarctic. Cold enough? You bet. The conditions are bone freezing cold. Keep a coat handy in the theater. You might find yourself shivering.
This film shows a true meld of man with and against nature. Nature and cold are like two more characters in this film, especially with the way it is shot. There are 360° pans, plus slow zooms on huge landscapes and fascinating visuals of rolling clouds. You see the forest calm and then as a living maze, plus sights and sounds of gurgling, rushing and scary white water, showing the power of nature. Iñárritu says he was trying to achieve the natural light of 19th century landscapes, before photography. The settings are intricately detailed, especially the ones that are gory bloody. Not the most pleasant to see, but so compelling.
There are so many gruesome violent scenes, you may not want to eat before, during nor after seeing this film. This film is based on a true story about what fur traders had to deal with in Montana and South Dakota in the 19th century. DiCaprio plays Hugh Glass, an expedition guide. He had an Indian wife who was killed when their village was ravaged. His son, Hawk, played by Forest Goodluck, is still with him and the reason he keeps going.
The Revenant means a person who comes back from the dead which DiCaprio does, incredibly, again and again throughout the film. Wait till you see what he goes through to get his revenge. Glass fights Indians, the French, the White men, fellow traders, trying to survive rivers and being eaten by an angry bear. That scene is torturous, horribly frightening and goes on for what seems to be forever! You will gasp and groan with each graphic attack. How can he survive? He’s buried alive but lives up to the movie’s title and keeps coming back for more. It’s exhausting.
DiCaprio gets more out of his character with what he admits are the least words he’s ever said in any movie. The Director says he “has to make you feel fear, cold, sadness, rage and many complex emotions simultaneously with his body and (does it) only with his eyes.” His expressions communicate his every painful test. The actor says there were long hours of rehearsal to get the acting and choreography ready. On production days it would take two hours just to get to the location.Then a rush for wardrobe and makeup because they might only have an hour and a half to shoot with the natural light Iñárritu wanted.
DiCaprio says he got excited about working with Alejandro and Chivo because “I think what they quite uniquely achieve is especially and in particular in this film is this almost virtual reality where you feel you’re out with these characters,… and you feel like you’re out in the elements with these characters.”
Tom Hardy as Trapper John Fitzgerald or “Fitz” is a conniving, bad ass who has had run ins with the Indians and everyone else. He lets everybody know he’s out for himself and for money. He doesn’t care who gets hurt or who dies in the process. Iñárritu describes Hardy as fragile and sweet and at the same time, a strong and inaccessible being. that’s just what he was looking for. Hardy says that shooting this film was a paradox. “It’s such a incredibly beautiful, stunning and breathtaking environment, as well (as one) which is trying to kill you.”
Will Poulter told us at our screening that he pinched himself feeling so lucky to be cast as Jim Bridger, the youngest member of the expedition. He loved acting with DiCaprio and working with Iñárritu. The young actor agreed that it was an incredible experience to work under the most challenging conditions. But remembers one of his toughest scenes towards the beginning of the film when he was under water in the river for a scary long time. Poulter, known for comedies like We’re the Millers and the young adult Maze Runner, now wants to do more dramatic roles and he proves here he can handle it. He is prominent in many scenes with both DiCaprio and Hardy. He also revealed that Hardy was a lot of fun on the set and not as intense as you’d expect.
Domnall Gleeson plays Captain Andrew Henry, the expedition leader who ends up holding down the Fort and playing a pivotal role. Gleeson was amazed at Leo’s ability to be in control yet at the mercy of everything. He says the Director put them through a couple of weeks of boot camp learning the basics of survival in the wild including setting traps, loading firearms and even hatchet throwing which he didn’t even have to do in the movie. But, he says it was good to have it in his pocket, just in case.
Jack Fisk, the production designer says he likes to give directors like Iñárritu a big, detailed set, so they have a lot to work with, especially if they like to shoot 360°. He finds the more he gives them to work with, the more they end up shooting and using. He also says Alejandro likes a high degree of difficulty when he works. He doesn’t want it to be easy and it shows. The budget reportedly started at $35 million and grew to $90 million and then reportedly to $135 million. They took a 6 week break in the middle of the shoot because they didn’t have enough snow and the cold wasn’t intense enough for the director. So Iñárritu moved the whole production down to the other end of the world to get what he wanted.
Is this worth your bucks? Know that there are so very many scenes that are hard to watch in this film.This trek was no picnic in the park for the trappers as well as for the filmmakers. Iñárritu and “Chivo" show every graphic, gruesome and bloody detail in a film that could give you nightmares. The bear scene alone is so horrifyingly long and painful. But that’s only a start.
It’s Horse Sweet Home when you see someone climb into what’s left of the still warm carcass of an animal to keep warm. Ugh! This is a brutal but an exquisitely beautiful tour de force of filmmaking. Leo DiCaprio has taken this role not only seriously, but to the absolute extreme. It’s all in his steel cold blue eyes. And he may finally get his reward for his part in a film that’s big, beautiful, bold and cold.