The Revenant – A very beautiful film.

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Saw this last night, absolutely fantastic. Survival movies are a particular favourite of mine especially if they are based on true stories or if they at least adhere to the “rules of the Universe.” Alejandro González Iñárritu’s film depicts a stark and brutal frontier world and details some lives within.

Told through a cast of multi-dimensional characters and nearly all of them men, this is a movie about the American frontier back when it was there to be claimed or stolen depending on the viewpoint but only for those who could stomach the violence and slaughter that entailed.

A place where the riches of the land are hunted, killed and hauled back to those unwilling to risk their lives in a land which is not theirs, a land which belongs to the Indians and has done for thousands of years before the white men appeared.

DiCaprio plays the Hugh Glass character – a man whose incredible survival story forms the backbone to the movie – he’s mauled by a bear and as he’s slowing the party down, Fitzgerald (Tom Hardy) is charged with looking after him until he goes and giving him a proper burial – instead he betrays, murders and then cheats another of his party into leaving him for dead.

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Visceral is the word – that single word could be used to describe this film. What Iñárritu does with the shots, timing, locations, dialogue and the brilliant acting is totally sell you this world of harshness, bitter cold, the constant struggle with the elements and the ever-present fear of attack and death.

There’s a scene near the beginning where the Americans come under attack from Indians and you really feel the knife edge of fear as arrows scythe into the party from an invisible enemy out of range of their inaccurate and clumsy firearms.

Characters are often shown in brief but very human vignettes only to be dead moments after and later when Glass is being nobly carried down the trail by men trying to do the right thing you really feel their pain at the futility of the task and when they almost decide to ‘put him out of his misery’ there and then it doesn’t feel like an evil act – in this world of pain it could be easily mean a better chance for the living.

The two movies that most closely resemble The Revenant are also two favourites of mine – Herzog’s dark and twisted Aguirre: The Wrath of God and Valhalla Rising, Winding Refn’s brutal tale set in pre-history.

We see the tale unfold thru the eyes of an ‘American’ party, the French and two different tribes of Indians and all get to be solid characters with stories and motivations.

Then there’s the utter conviction to the role from DiCaprio who commits so fully to the character and his struggle that it’s simply a new level of filmmaking that you’ve never seen before to sell the story of what a human might endure when they have a single, burning reason to live.

As well as all of this the locations and shots are so beautiful to behold that I wanted shots to linger beyond their already languid pace and the two and a half hour running time still left me wanting more.

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