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The Revenant
Genre Western
 
Review:

The Revenant is a gritty survival adventure masquerading as a grim western, which while brutal remains beautiful and spirited. We follow the tale of a frontiersman, whose desire for revenge gives him the strength he needs to carry on after being mauled by a bear and being left for dead by his hunting party in the 1820s.

The title, which for all intents and purposes means 'zombie', gives you an idea of this film's dark edge. The Terrence Malick finesse of the nature versus man visuals is counterbalanced by a Charles Bronson certified blood-and-guts revenge story. We're swathed in the aesthetics and technical agility of two pristine film-makers in director, Alejandro González Iñárritu, and cinematographer, Emmanuel Lubezki, who are fast becoming regulars at the Academy Awards.

The winning streak isn't over for the duo, who essentially created a western version of Saving Private Ryan's opening Normandy landings, which moves seamlessly between the action as Indians ambush a group of frontiersmen to reclaim their pelts. Beyond this technical marvel, the film relies on natural light, which only afforded them a few hours of shooting per day. Despite this constraint, The Revenant remains breathtaking in its soulful beauty and provocative cruelty.

Iñárritu's previous directorial credits include intense dramas such as: 21 Grams, Biutiful and the squirrely backstage freak out, Birdman, which resulted in a landslide of Oscar nominations. The Revenant continues this trend as the in-demand director gets to pick the actors he'd like to work with. Which actor in their right mind wouldn't want a chance to work with the contemporary great?

Leonardo DiCaprio and Tom Hardy, two of the best actors of our generation, must have seized the opportunity to star in Iñárritu's latest film. DiCaprio is yet to win an Oscar, a feat that has aligned him in recent years with Martin Scorsese, who has became a worthy ally. While he's racked up a couple of Golden Globes, even Scorsese wasn't able to help DiCaprio earn that one golden statuette that's missing from his mantelpiece.

Is it because he hasn't made enough of a mental or physical transformation? The jury's still out on this one as DiCaprio continues to deliver one knock-out performance after another. Many, including this reviewer, believe his performance in The Revenant could spell the end of the drought. As a vegetarian, he overcame his convictions by eating bison, which just underscores how committed he was to this tremendous heart-and-soul performance.

He wasn't alone as the titular character, supported by Tom Hardy as a hard-headed villain and Domnhall Gleeson as an optimist, peacekeeper and leader. Hardy is murky and mercurial in The Revenant, playing a maddeningly dark character whose morally unconscious and slippery actions make him seem almost invincible. He's stone cold, devious and commands an unhealthy respect from the audience. While Gleeson is a light in the darkness, almost unrecognisable as the Captain.

The performances are strong and counterbalance the technical wizardry as a sparse yet effective revenge and survival story plays out. The natural vistas are screensaver-worthy and the adventure is real as our hero fights to stay alive and carry out his mission. His struggle is palpable and the drama is loaded as a series of injustices serve as a precursor to the ultimate revenge.

The Revenant is a film of rare beauty and brutality, two aspects that co-exist to create underlying tension as our heroic survivor battles for personal redemption against the elements and odds. It carries heart in the way our tenacious, travel-weary husk of a lead keeps his focus and soul in the midst of a mesmerising journey that carries him (and us) forward in search of a long-awaited and overdue reckoning.

The bottom line: Transcendent

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