Reviewing The Revenant

Extraordinary filmmaking once again from Iñárritu, but it is to DiCaprio, who for years I harboured question marks, that I ultimately doff my cap. Here’s my Sunday Independent review.

***

The Revenant
Cert: 16

SOME men have all the luck. Others, like Leonardo DiCaprio, are preyed upon by man, beast, element and Alejandro González Iñárritu. In The Revenant, the Birdman director put DiCaprio, his co-stars and the crew through such endurance feats that there was talk of breakdowns and walk-outs on set.

Iñárritu’s steel has paid off, however, because this mud ‘n’ blood survival-revenge epic is a genuine masterpiece of 2016 and deserves any further awards coming its way after its Golden Globes rout.

DiCaprio is Hugh Glass, the real-life son of Ulster immigrants who we meet as one of a band of weather-beaten Montana fur traders in 1832. Glass came back from the brink to wreak revenge on a colleague who had left him for dead after a mauling by a grizzly bear. It turns out to be only the start of Glass’s woes in the frozen wilderness, and when he hauls himself out of his shallow grave, he has bitter cold, marauding Indians and a busted body to consider.

What he does have on his side, though, are survival skills, a knowledge of the terrain, a grasp of native language and a grim thirst to fix the wagon of the dastardly John Fitzgerald (Tom Hardy in evil hillbilly mode). None-the-less, you’ll squirm over how much one character can take.

The matted, grubby human strife and graphic violence is strikingly countered by Iñárritu and cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki. Together, they turn a landscape of creaking, respiring forests, white water and alpine hilltops into a central character, full of symbolism and spectral wonder. When it is interrupted, it is done so by Hardy and an equally muscular cast that includes Domhnall Gleeson and Will Poulter.

This is DiCaprio’s film, however, and for his sheer grit, vigour and dexterity, another Oscar snub would be a huge injustice.

5/5

First published in the Sunday Independent

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Published by

Hilary A White

Dublin-based arts journalist and reviewer, specialising in film, books, music and human-interest stories. Sunday Independent / Irish Independent / State.ie / RTE Radio 1 / Today FM

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