The Revenant: a movie review by James Berardinelli

January 3, 2016 by James Berardinelli - Reelviews
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The Revenant, Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu’s follow-up to his Oscar-winning Birdman, plays like a cross between Terrence Malick and Sam Peckinpah.

As unlikely as such a conflation might seem, the result works – sometimes to stunning effect. In a year when no fewer than five films have dealt with themes of man vs. nature and survival (including The MartianEverestIn the Heart of the Seaand A Walk in the Woods), The Revenant is by far the most brutal, challenging, and astounding of these.

The Revenant is adapted from the novel by Michael Punke which in turn is a fictionalized account of the life of frontier legend Hugh Glass (Leonardo DiCaprio), a man who survived a bear mauling and, badly injured, traveled more than 200 miles across the 1823 wilderness to safety. The script (co-written by Inarritu and Mark L. Smith), using material from the book, enhances Glass’ journey, both physical and emotional, by giving him a Pawnee son, Hawk (Forrest Goodluck), and a more tangible reason for revenge against the men who left him behind, John Fitzgerald (Tom Hardy) and Jim Bridger (Will Poulter).

The Revenant is at times dreamlike, with gorgeous cinematography by Emmanuel Lubezki, who turns the frigid, wintry backcountry into a land that is equal parts forbidding and beautiful. The film is peppered with ground shots looking up at the sky through the trees and there are numerous extended takes (although nothing to compare with the “one-shot” of Birdman, for which Lubezki won his second consecutive Oscar). The comparison to Malick is not coincidental; Lubezki has lensed Malick’s five most recent features, dating back to The New World.

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