Review: ‘The Revenant’ is Violent, Graceful, and Epic

Oscar-winner Alejandro G. Iñárritu applies his artful specificity to one of the wildest settings imaginable, resulting in a gripping and immersive frontier adventure. As an exercise in pure cinematic style, The Revenant is almost unprecedented – the film is simply staggering to behold for practically its entire running time. Iñárritu dives deep into the savagery of the setting and characters, exploring the insanity from all angles while maintaining a remarkably steady directorial hand.

The filmmaker’s trademark extended tracking shots are very present here, and less self-conscious than they were in Birdman – the camerawork lends the violent action set-pieces a graceful beauty that must be experienced. An already-infamous bear attack scene sets a new standard for post-Life of Pi CGI cinematic beasts.

By deciding to exclusively use natural light, The Revenant’s stunning locations are given a flat, grey quality that will be familiar to many New Zealanders, and it only enhances the film’s potent sense of immersion.

DiCaprio’s dialogue-light lead performance is a thing of damp, sinewy tangibility – his ocular expressiveness has never been better utilised. Tom Hardy’s response as his antagonist is to never blink, and that works as well. There isn’t a bum note amongst the deep supporting cast, with Domhnall Gleeson (The Force Awakens) and Will Poulter (who was intriguingly cast as Pennywise in Cary Fukunaga’s aborted adaptation of It) both especially great.

They all help this epic film maintain an emotional intimacy that informs the bravura filmmaking on display without ever quite superseding it.

‘The Revenant’ Movie Times

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