By Orlando Marin
This movie was directed by Alejandro Gonzalez Iñarritu. He also directed the movie Birdman which got him multiple awards such as the Academy Award for best director, best screenplay, and best picture. This year he received another award for best director for his work on The Revenant. He became the third director in history to receive academy awards back to back.
After watching the film I can see how he won all those awards. The movie is a masterpiece. This story which takes place in the 1820s.It is about a frontiersman named Hugh Glass and the trials he must endure both mentally and physically. Hugh Glass, played by Leonardo DiCaprio, was on a hunting expedition but then he and his men were attacked by Arikara Indians. Glass managed to survive but his group suffered heavy losses. Soon after, Glass is attacked viciously by a bear. He is half dead and his chances of survival are low. So John Fitzgerald, one of the men in his expedition, decided to kill him. Glass’ son, however, interferes which leads to the son’s death.
John, played by Tom Hardy, then decides to leave Glass behind. Glass is forced to survive on his own. He went through many obstacles in this movie. For example, he had to sleep inside a dead horse in order to keep warm. After going through all these trials he finally got his chance to get revenge on John. He tracked John down and they fought until Glass gains the upper hand. He has a chance to kill him but he decides not to. He sais to himself, ” Revenge is in God’s hands. Not mine.” He threw John into the river and watched him float away. John was then captured by Indians and killed. After that, Glass falls to his knees and sees an image of his dead wife walking away with a smile on her face. The movie ends with Glass closing his eyes and breathing slowly as the credits rolled in. This ending is left to interpretation but I believe that he died in the end and the image of his wife is supposed to symbolize his path to heaven. Either way, the movie left a lasting impression on me. The acting, cinematography, and the lightning in this movie were all in a league of their own.
Performances and Characters
The performances in this movie were amazing. Leonardo DiCaprio did an amazing job as Hugh Glass. Hugh Glass was a man bent on revenge and to enact his revenge he had to survive in the frigid wilderness. He is a round character because as the movie progressed you could clearly see a change in Hugh Glass after his son gets murdered. He goes through hell to get his revenge and DeCaprio does a good job of showing Hugh’s will to live through his performance. His trials and tribulations were expressed clearly through DiCaprio’s acting. For most of the movie Leonardo DiCaprio didn’t even have to speak. He instead used body language to enhance his performance. For example, in the scene involving the bear attack, DiCaprio made the experience more intense through his acting. This is also true for the scene involving the dead horse. In this scene, he had to open up a dead horse and sleep inside of it in order to keep warm.
As an actor DiCaprio was prepared to handle all this movie had to offer and then some. To get ready for this movieDiCaprio actually slept inside an animal carcass, ate raw bison, and frequently swam in frozen rivers. This kind of preparation and dedication added authenticity to the role. Another noteworthy performance is Tom Hardy as John Fitzgerald. To be honest I didn’t like Tom Hardy as an actor but this movie changed my opinion of him. John Fitzgerald has a very aggressive personality and his actions are driven by greed and selfishness. For example, he chose to leave Hugh Glass for dead because he was more concerned about his own life. He also chose to lie to his superiors in order to get paid. At first, I thought he was a simple character but I discovered that there was so much more to him. In the movie, John states that when he was younger he was tortured. This traumatic event in his life made him see the world in a different way. Many of his decisions are influenced by this new found perspective. Tom Hardy does an amazing job emphasizing these points. The deteriorating mental state of John Fitzgerald can be seen clearly through Tom Hardy’s acting and he is able to add complexity to a seemingly simple character. Will Poulter plays Jim Bridger who is one of the men in Hugh Glass’ group. Bridger and John Fitzgerald are the ones who left Hugh Glass behind but Bridger was unaware of John’s actions. John tricked him into leaving Glass and lying to his superiors about it.But unlike John, Bridger felt bad about what he had done. Unfortunately, his character didn’t amount to much in the grand scheme of things. He was a very flat character in my opinion because his character development was very minimal and he didn’t really change throughout the story. He was a very forgettable character. Will Porter gave a good performance but compared to Tom Hardy and Leonardo DiCaprio his presence in the movie wasn’t really felt.
Cinematography and Lighting
This movie is different from most movies because most of it was shot using natural light. Many of the scenes were shot using light from the sun, the moon, and fire. Using natural light in the film made it more Immersive for the audience. It made the people in the audience feel like the events in the movie were actually happening. The person responsible for this was famous cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki. He had worked on other amazing films such as Birdman and gravity but he was faced with a new challenge in this film. The movie was filmed in Canada and Argentina so Emmanuel and the rest of the cast had to overcome the freezing temperatures to get the best shots. Comfort isn’t a word you’d use for this movie. 93 percent of the movie was shot outdoors in the frigid wilderness. Also, days are shorter during the winter season and it took a long time to get to the different filming locations so the cast had a very short time to film. DiCaprio even stated that” he went through 30 to 40 of the hardest sequences of his career”. But all this hardship paid off because the film turned into an immersive experience because of the way the natural light was used. For example, the lightning and the environment managed to set the tone for the entire movie. The colors in this film gave it a sense of hopelessness. It also showed how hard it was to survive in this environment. When Glass actually manages to survive this hopeless situation the audience is hit with an ocean of emotions ranging from sadness to happiness. The Lightning in this movie makes this all possible. If it were filmed differently the effect on the audience’s emotions wouldn’t be the same.
This movie is a work of art. It has an amazing story but what really stands out about this is the execution. The lengths the director, cinematographer, and the rest of the cast went through to finish this film is astonishing. The use of lighting is excellent and the performances from Tom Hardy and Leonardo DiCaprio are in a league of their own. This movie is definitely worth watching.