March Issue 2016
Movie Review: The Revenant
A Role to be Revered
by Deneb Sumbul.
The Revenant is as close as it gets to the harsh realities of the forbidding, unchartered American outback of the 1820s. Apart from an adult rating, there is no other prior warning of the gruesome scenes in the film — even for those who are desensitised by movie violence. With marathon intensity from start to finish, the script of this motion picture is loosely based on actual events in the life of American frontiersman, Hugh Glass, and adapted in part from Michael Punke’s 2002 novel of the same name. Chillingly realistic, the film highlights the legend of Hugh Glass in a two-and-a half hour drama-cum-adventure not meant for the faint-hearted.
Set in 1823, The Revenant is an epic story of an aggrieved mountain man’s sheer willpower to survive incredible odds — only to seek revenge. During an expedition in the American Midwest, a group of beaver fur-trappers are violently attacked by a tribe of Native Americans. While trying to guide the group back to safety, their tracker Hugh Glass (Leonardo DiCaprio), is savagely mauled by a mother bear, further complicating their return journey to base camp.
Left for dead by his fellow huntsmen, DiCaprio battles through life-threatening lacerations, a bitterly cold mountain terrain, and the murder of his half-Native American son, on a painful, half-hallucinating trek back. There is a sense of rawness in the film’s stunning cinematography and powerful performances — some of it heart-wrenching. Several of the actors were rumoured to have referred to the filming as living hell.
DiCaprio’s uncompromising performance as Hugh Glass is perhaps one of the most demanding roles of his acting career. Lead roles such this are rare and DiCaprio has done it justice several times over in scenes that will leave you stunned — such as being chased riding right over a sheer cliff, cutting a cavity into a dead horse to beat the cold and lurking enemies, or surviving an unnerving bear attack — you can even hear the crunch of bones breaking in that scene.
Given this backdrop, it wasn’t any wonder the film has already won 54 awards out of the 129 nominations it had received in film forums from around the world before the 88th Academy Awards. The Revenant had been nominated in 12 Oscar categories. However, on February 29, the film came away with only two statuettes, despite high expectations. Deservedly, Alejandro G. IÃ±Ã¡rritu’s won his second Oscar for his brilliant direction. This is his back-to-back Academy Award for Best Director — the first he won only last year for The Birdman. In the making of The Revenant, IÃ±Ã¡rritu pushed several cinematic limits, and according to rumours — sorely tried the patience of the crew during production, including shooting in freezing conditions and filming only in natural light, which lasted only around 90 minutes a day — going over-budget and over-schedule. But the end-product: undeniable cinematic excellence.
Despite the best predictions, Academy Awards winners often turn out to be the unexpected ones and 2016 was no different. The Revenant failed to triumph in any of the categories announced first, but six nominations and no wins later, fans of Leonardo DiCaprio were delighted to see him finally receive an Oscar, and to hear him say he was not going to take his success for granted. This despite the fact that DiCaprio had already won accolades for being the Best Male Actor in a leading role in the BAFTA, Screen Actor’s Guild and the Golden Globe awards.
This article was originally published in Newsline’s March 2016 issue.
The writer is working with the Newsline as Assistant Editor, she is a documentary filmmaker and activist.