Review by Michael Jacobson
Stars: Leonardo DiCaprio, Tom
Hardy, Domhnall Gleeson, Will Poulter, Forrest Goodluck
Director: Alejandro G. Inarritu
Audio: DTS HD 7.1
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 2.40:1
Studio: 20th Century Fox
Length: 156 Minutes
Release Date: April 19, 2016
“Revenge is in the Creator's hands.”
The Revenant is, at its heart, a good old fashioned tale of revenge. Based on a “true story” (the quotations just mean I have no idea how much is true), it's an epic adventure of man against nature leading to man against man...and successfully reminds us that the second conflict really is a part of the first.
It's spectacularly directed by Oscar-winner Alejandro G. Inarritu, and boldly acted by Leonardo DiCaprio. Yes, Leo...one of the most talented actors of this or any generation. He finally got to stop being the butt of Oscar snub jokes with his well-deserved win here, but to simply say this is the movie that finally got him recognition is to undervalue his performance.
He plays Hugh Glass, who, during the French and Indian War, works with a team of trappers to try and collect pelts for a promised pay day. We are not far into the film when a group of Indians descend on the men out of nowhere; like the opening of Saving Private Ryan but with arrows. The camerawork and direction are as relentless as the attack, which seems to evolve organically in the woods around them...remember, man vs. man IS also man vs. nature.
The group split up and try to find away to protect their investment AND stay alive, when a separated Glass is attacked by a mother bear (easily the year's most intense sequence). Crushed, ripped apart, but clinging to life, the group's commander Captain Henry (Gleeson) realizes they can't expect to carry the crippled Glass through the unforgiving (and rapidly freezing) landscape. He pays two men to stay with Glass to give him comfort and a proper burial, along with Glass' half-Pawnee son (Goodluck).
One of the men, John Fitzgerald (Hardy) is happy to take the money, but less excited about the work. Wanted to get back, he eventually kills Glass' son in front of him, then persuades his compadre to leave Glass behind, as the Ree Indians are (falsely) closing in.
Who could survive such a thing? More importantly, what would it take to MOTIVATE a man to survive such a thing? Most of the rest of the film involves the broken Glass healing, getting mobile, and fighting through man, nature, and himself to return to his post with one goal in mind: killing the vicious Fitzgerald.
The scenes with DiCaprio, though often long and free of dialogue, are the strength of the movie. The cuts to what is happening in Fitzgerald's world seem a little intrusive and disruptive. Hardy is a good actor, but I can' place the accent he's trying to come up with here. It seems to change mid-sentence, and almost always carries an old touch of Bane.
DiCaprio's true co-star is nature, which in this film is beautiful, relentless, deadly, and doesn't discriminate. There are scenes of sudden action and fury that keep this an intense and suspenseful ride from start to finish, but all set against a backdrop of pure beauty. Inarritu seems utterly fascinated by the way nature can both captivate and kill.
There's so much at play here, but ultimately, yes, I think this picture will forever go down in history as the one where Leo finally triumphed on Oscar night. With everything The Revenant has going for it, that might be a bit of a shame...but far from unfair.
This definitely ranks amongst the best visual presentations I've yet seen on Blu-ray. Nature is the star, and it's rarely been so lovingly photographed and captured outside of a Terrence Malick picture. Filled with detail and beauty, there's not a speck of compression marring any of it. Sumptuous.
From the terrific score to the balance of the quiet and ferocious, and with a thundering subwoofer channel to boot, this 7.1 DTS HD audio track is going to be tough to beat this year. The best part about uncompressed audio is not the loudness, but the subtlety, and this disc has that better than most any in memory.
The only extra is the documentary “A World Unseen”, about the making of the movie.
Leonardo DiCaprio and Alejandro G. Inarritu both earned their statutes with The Revenant. This is a nearly flawless masterpiece of man, nature and the spaces in between. It's definitely one you will never forget.