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‘The Revenant’: a beautiful disaster

| Monday, January 18, 2016

LAUREN WELDON | The Observer

“The Revenant” is the epitome of a beautiful disaster. From incredibly stunning landscape shots to the terrifyingly realistic bear-mauling scene, the Best Picture Oscar hopeful provides an acute look into how extremely powerful Mother Nature can be. In its entirety, “The Revenant” is a roller coaster, catapulting the viewer into American wilderness explorer Hugh Glass’ (Leonardo DiCaprio) seemingly endless fight for survival and revenge. The stark tone immediately established during a violent battle between the Native American Arikara tribe and a group of frontiersmen is carried throughout the rest of Alejandro González Iñárritu’s masterpiece. Each gripping scene masters astonishing cinematic feats and conveys a surreally accurate representation of wilderness survival.

Before considering the acting or storyline of the film, Emmanuel Lubezki’s captivating cinematographic work is enough to win “The Revenant” an Academy Award. Shooting the film in only natural light at several rough terrain locations in Canada, Montana and Argentina proved to be a challenge Lubezki met and conquered with full force, creating a fluid, magnificent and cohesive piece of artwork that perfectly complements Iñárritu’s cinematic vision. Coming off two Best Cinematography Oscar wins for his work in “Gravity” and “Birdman,” Lubezki is certainly in line to snag the trophy for a third consecutive year.

Then there’s Leonardo DiCaprio. With a large majority of people hoping for DiCaprio’s long-overdue Oscar win for Best Actor (while some haters are praying for another upset), this guy had some high expectations to meet. Not only did he meet these expectations, but DiCaprio pushed boundaries and redefined the expectations of acting. There has been a significant amount of criticism toward DiCaprio due to the small amount of dialogue throughout the film; however, his emotionally invigorating performance and portrayal of near-death experiences stand in no competition to any well-delivered lines in other films from this past year. For a good portion of the film following the bear-mauling, DiCaprio can barely move nor speak, relying on his eyes, grunts and screams to seamlessly master the depiction of a complex character. Watching him enter nearly frozen rivers, sleep inside animal carcasses, consume an actual raw bison liver (as a vegetarian, no less) and survive a bear attack sets the actor apart from any other actor or role in cinematic history.

“The Revenant” is a fairly simple story of revenge and survival. Hugh Glass is constantly pushed to the brink of death in his search for John Fitzgerald (Tom Hardy), his son’s killer. Identifying the climax of the film is a near impossible task, as every moment brings a new life-threatening obstacle that Glass overcomes by doing anything and everything to survive.

Although the film is based on true events, some deadly situations do seem somewhat implausible, forcing the viewer to question how the hell Glass continues to survive. In the final moments of the film, it’s hard to even picture what a “happy ending” could potentially look like, as it is quite possibly the furthest thing from a happy movie. Regardless, “The Revenant” is a once-in-a-lifetime experience that will leave you feeling emotionally and physically drained. This movie is not for the faint of heart, and you will not be able to sit still for the entirety of the 2 hour and 36 minute run, but it is a work of art and a groundbreaking feat that will be sure to make a lasting impact on cinema.

Shamrocks: 4.5/5

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