Picture Leonardo DiCaprio’s Hugh Glass after a climactic battle, his body rotten and wounded mostly through battles with animals and the wilderness to the point he can no longer run or stand erect, seeing a vision of his dead wife. The scene cuts back to his snow-covered face for a few seconds, and the screen goes black, with only his breathing remaining…until it stops. The Revenant is filled with scenes like this as if nature is taking control of the strings behind the camera. The elements act on their own will, and lest man tries to upend the pyramid, bad things will be in store for him.
It seems as though the actors were dragging their way through the story encased in a shell of snow and wood. Through over two and a half hours of long shots and barely surviving the wilderness, the stunning effectiveness of the cast and cinematography carry the thick atmosphere all the way to the end. It doesn’t need a bombastic score, director Alejandro G. Iñarritu leaves it all on the screen, bear attacks and horses falling off of cliffs included, for us to savor.
Because of this every punishing blow and every drop of blood is felt by the audience, bringing them ever closer to full immersion. There are times when the punishment borders on hyperbole, just because of the length of each cut, which happens enough times for it to feel repetitive. But thanks to the acting and production values nothing goes over the line for long. For the most part, they feel the suffering of Hugh, and also every actor and crew that worked on the set.
No man can survive an environment this harsh without some company, and here Tom Hardy makes for such a devious but believable antagonist that you really love to hate. Will Poulter and Domhnall Gleeson, who seems to be in every prestige flick these days, put in surprisingly solid performances too. But who am I kidding, The Revenant is a film about Hugh Glass running towards the unstoppable forces of nature in a quest for vengeance and redemption. All these people are just kites flying in a stormy sky, and that’s what makes The Revenant so gripping.