Mark Whelan Best of the Decade

The Best Films of the The Decade: The Revenant

Best Of The Decade The Revenant (2015)

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If you walk into The Revenant ( 2015) expecting an historically accurate rendition of
real-life pioneer Hugh Glass you will be disappointed.
Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu’s broad adaptation of that specific source material (yet loosely
based on a novelization by Micheal Punke) plays second fiddle to the magnificent sights
and sounds of a vast and inventive frontier for which our hero (DiCaprio, in a role that
earned him a Best Actor Oscar) suffers the brutal elements, scheming allies with fickle
loyalties, assaults from vengeful indigenous tribes, and a gruesomely explicit bear
mauling. It is a fantastical world illogically placed, teeming with natural hazards, and
shrouded in metaphor.
The Revenants story doesn’t invite close scrutiny as its primitive base orchestrates an
emblematic tale of revenge set against the unrestrained backdrop of a 19th century
American frontier. There is beauty and nuance to be found in its more delicate moments,
but even these lend only asides to the primary task at hand: one man’s willingness to
persevere and hunt down those who betrayed him. It is a trite premise told many times
before, but rarely with such allegiance or tactfulness. This is in no small doings for
DiCaprio who manages to portray such a figure with brilliant intensity in the whites of his
steely eyes and the gruff of his craggy visage. It is his rigorous devotion that carries us
along this marvelous saga of survival and retribution.
I ‘d be neglectful without mentioning the staggering work of cinematographer Emmanuel
Lubezki (who also won a richly deserved Academy Award ) and the film’s illustrious set
design and art direction led by Hamish Purdy.
Inarritu’s directorial prowess (which also earned a statuette) hardly beckons further
validation, especially given this towering work follows a previous triumph one year prior
(2014’s best picture winner Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance). Like
Birdman, The Revenant mimics similar visual aspects to unravel its story—but never to
the full extent of a single shot throughout the film’s entire duration as that previous effort
had done. There is an ethereal disturbance to the proceedings that are hauntingly captured
on film: a labyrinthian exhibit of nature’s awesomeness that has been seldom integrated as
effectively in other films of its ilk. The natural universe of The Revenant is fraught with
peril and its deathly beauty is evident in each shot.
Whether or not you’re able to accept and ultimately forgive Glass’ fictionalized odyssey
as overlong and ponderous depends greatly on your own temperament to embark on his
arduous journey. Those who choose to consent and behold will be enthralled in cinematic
bliss with a rich and rewarding adventure.
As a work of craftsmanship, The Revenant is an absolute triumph of production and has
no difficulty transporting us to a time and place. But you cannot simulate the beating heart
of a man bound and determined to carry out his vengeance with camera angles and special
effects. That talent belongs to DiCaprio, and it is he alone that makes The Revenant so