Gutting Michael Punke's 2002 novel about fur trapper Hugh Glass, mauled by a bear then left for dead by two men from his own hunting party, with the same kind of ruthless efficiency that Leonardo DiCaprio guts then climbs inside of a dead horse to keep warm (it's that kind of a film), The Revenant is a gruelling, often unbearably tense revenge thriller that clearly prides itself on being as much an endurance test as it is a piece of entertainment.

Kicking off with a brutal attack on the hunting party by Ree Indians (the first of several effective set pieces) director Alejandro Gonzalez Iñárritu (Brirdman) makes it clear that this is going to be an authentic depiction of an unforgiving wilderness (if not of the real life of Hugh Glass himself) and not for the faint of heart. And that's before we even get to the bear attack which finds DiCaprio tossed around like a helpless rag doll.

DiCaprio throws himself into all of this with an unenviable level of commitment, whether it's eating raw bison liver or climbing inside the aforementioned animal carcass. Little wonder he decided to take a break from acting once filming finished. Some will no doubt dismiss this as a desperate bid for that ever elusive Oscar, but he has rarely been better. Tom Hardy and Will Poulter are also excellent as Fitzgerald and Bridger, the two men who leave him for dead. While Domhnall Gleeson adds another solid performance to his increasingly impressive CV.

Fine cast aside, the real star of The Revenant, for me, is cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki. Iñárritu's desire to film using only natural light is a challenge that Lubezki rises to with extraordinary results. The film is full of some of the most stunning imagery I've seen on the big screen in quite a while. If he manages to pick up his third Oscar in a row (after Gravity and Birdman) it will certainly be well deserved. Even if that means the great Roger Deakins misses out yet again.

Complementing all the above is an amazing score by Ryiuchi Sakamoto and Alva Noto (with additional music from The National's Bryce Dessner).

At a punishing 156 minutes and with a deliberately slow and measured pace, The Revenant won't be to everyone's taste but those willing to make the journey should find it a deeply satisfying cinematic experience.

Review by Kevin Knapman



The Revenant (15)

2h 36m

Starring:
Leonardo Dicaprio, Tom Hardy, Domhnall Gleeson, Will Poulter, Lukas Haas


UK Release: Friday 15th January 2016

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