Home » Now Playing » THE REVENANT


Very early on during the making of Alejandro Inarritu’s THE REVENANT, reports began to trickle out that the demanding shoot was taking its toll on members of the crew. The filmmaker, who was coming off his win at the Academy Awards for his direction of BIRDMAN, made the drastic decision to use only natural lighting for the entirety of the shoot.

This feat would have been difficult under any circumstances, but given the fact that the film was to take place during a frigid winter in Montana and South Dakota in 1823, there was little doubt that the production was going to be unlike any other that the industry had ever seen. Giving the demanding and ambitious nature of the movie, it did not come as a surprise that a few crew members quit along the way. Despite these select few who bowed out prematurely, it should be noted that others, including star Leonardo DiCaprio, claimed that the experience was as rewarding as it was challenging.

The REVENANT is based on the true story of Hugh Glass (DiCaprio), an experienced hunter that was assisting a group of trappers who were on the prowl for pelts shortly after the Louisiana Purchase. At their camp, they are attacked by natives who are searching for a young girl that had gone missing from one of their villages. This sequence is the first of many heart-stopping moments that feature savage and intense violence that feels shockingly realistic. Arrows and bullets fly, and characters are slaughtered in a variety of uncomfortable ways. This bloody, intense scene serves as a proper introduction of the pace of the production and the horrors to come.

Those who survive this attack, including Glass, his son Hawk (Forrest Gooduck), Captain Andrew Henry (Domhnall Gleeson), John Fitzgerald (Tom Hardy) and Jim Bridger (Will Poulter) make their way to a boat, and escape with most of their furs. Glass suggests that they leave the pelts in a place where they will be able to find them, and navigate the mountainous landscape in order to shake off their pursuers. Fitzgerald adamantly objects to this suggestion, stating that the entire purpose of the expedition was to procure the furs, and leaving them behind renders their mission pointless and unprofitable. Captain Henry sides with Glass, and preparations are made to begin the treacherous trek back to civilization.36190303revenant-1280a-1449188082920

Before the group can get very far, Glass accidentally crosses paths with a mother bear who was protecting her cubs, and the guide is brutally mauled by the ferocious creature. Much has been made about this particular sequence, and it certainly places itself on the long list of unforgettable moments that THE REVENANT provides. The bear is unrelenting and fierce in her attempt to protect her offspring and Glass is tossed, bit, scratched, and stomped on. Less you believe this is an isolated, fleeting moment in the film, rest assured that the bear is more than willing to carry on with the fight as long as the threat to her cubs is still mobile.

Glass is discovered by his party shortly after the attack ends, and they are fairly certain that it will be impossible for him to survive. Though their companion appears to be mortally wounded, they do their best to treat his gored flesh and keep him alive. The men build a makeshift stretcher, and carry him across the perilous terrain. This task becomes much more difficult the further they go along, and eventually, they get to a point where the can carry him no further. Reluctant to leave the man alone to die, Captain Henry asks for volunteers to stay with Glass until help arrives, or until the suffering man passes away. Fitzgerald, Bridger and Hawk agree to sit alongside their fallen comrade, and the rest of the party reluctantly continue on their journey.

The-Revenant-Hugh-Glass-1024x785 copyWhile Bridger and Hawk are eager to help Glass, Fitzgerald has ulterior motives. After committing an act of unforgivable treachery, he convinces Bridger that Glass is as good as dead, and if they don’t flee immediately, they will likely be attacked by the same tribe that besieged their group earlier. Glass is thrown into a shallow grave, and left alone to die. Despite the seemingly impossible odds facing him, he somehow survives, and is driven by a seething sense of revenge that will not allow him to stop until he takes the life of the treacherous Fitzgerald.
When the Academy Award nominees were announced this January, THE REVENANT found itself on the receiving end of 12 nominations. This list included categories such as Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor, Best Supporting Actor (Hardy) and Best Cinematography. Despite the accolades that have already been pouring in (the film won Best Picture-Drama at the Golden Globes, as did DiCaprio for Best Actor-Drama) there will be plenty of people who won’t fall in love with THE REVANANT. It is a harrowing, thrilling, and unflinchingly brutal exploration of human perseverance and triumph, yet the majority of the sequences are not for the faint of heart. Whether it was the natural lighting, the brilliant choreography, the stellar performances, or a combination of all of these, as I stated before, the realism projected by the film is unparalleled. Much like GRAVITY did two years ago, THE REVENANT is an immersive experience that transports you into the perilous world that is being projected from the screen. Though the landscape is often stark, frigid, and foreboding, it is also profoundly beautiful. It allows the film to be what every great production longs to be; a spectacle.11203523_ori

There are many (myself included) who believe that DiCaprio should have won an Oscar long before now, but this is bound to be irrelevant in a matter of weeks, as the talented star is a virtual lock this time around. While his performance would have been impressive had it been executed within the comfy confines of a studio, the fact that he was out in the elements, putting himself in legitimate danger in order to achieve artistic greatness is impossible to ignore. Whether it is wading through frozen rivers, laying face-down in the snow, or snacking on animal remains, it is obvious to anyone watching that he is putting everything he has into this demanding role. Even so, the mere fact that he executed difficult tasks isn’t enough to simply award him the coveted statuette. Fortunately, his nuanced performance is rife with heartache, determination, and genuine emotion, which allows THE REVENANT propel itself to the top of the list of 2015’s best film. Enthralling at every turn and throughout every second of its running time, THE REVENANT is a cinematic experience that is unlike anything that has been seen this, or any other year.


A special thanks goes to Regal Cinemas at Destiny USA for allowing me to attend this month’s film.

Brian Miller