January 8, 2016 3:45 pm
Updated: January 8, 2016 3:47 pm

‘The Revenant’ review: A very cold, unflinching, beautiful movie

'The Revenant' trailer.


The Revenant is a cold, cold film. No, seriously. By the time its two-hours-plus length is over, you’ll be chilled to the bone.

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Alejandro G. Iñárritu’s visual masterwork is also a thing of beauty; your jaw will drop at the almost surreal scenery, the mountains of Alberta and B.C. at once treacherous and beautiful. Iñárritu takes the audience right into the thick forest and down the rapids, up the mountain and through knee-deep snow. At all times unflinching, The Revenant provides first-hand glimpses into the heart of (several) battles, and as seen in the trailer, onto a horse with leading man Leonardo DiCaprio.

MORE: Global Calgary meteorologist Jordan Witzel crucial to making of The Revenant

Based on the true story of frontiersman Hugh Glass (look him up, it’s fascinating), the movie follows Glass (DiCaprio) on an 1820s fur-trading expedition for the Hudson’s Bay Company. Things take a very violent and sour turn, and Glass is left for dead by the rest of his party. The only thing is he doesn’t die, so he takes it upon himself to seek revenge on those who left him behind. The result is a lengthy trek through the most unforgiving of wildernesses, and Glass has no choice but to survive.

OK, I need to know: does DiCaprio’s character get raped by a bear?
No, the bear does not rape DiCaprio’s character. The bear in the movie is actually a mother protecting her cubs, so physically it’s not even possible.

How disgusting is this movie?
If you watch TV shows like The Walking Dead or Game of Thrones, then this will be like a walk in the (very cold) park. That’s not to say some of the stuff that happens isn’t gross to look at/unsettling, but it’s bearable in terms of gore. Many critics have said that the film is relentless in its grittiness, and they wish there was some sort of reprieve from the constant struggle. I respectfully disagree; after all, would it really be better if DiCaprio’s character stumbled upon a warm, cozy mountain lodge? This was the olden days, folks, and the frontiersmen weren’t exactly connoisseurs of creature comforts.

Is anyone in the supporting cast notable?
Tom Hardy’s character, John Fitzgerald, is the bad guy. Hardy (as he’s done with most of his other roles) so eagerly and completely steps into the character he nearly steals the movie from DiCaprio. Nearly. But DiCaprio is all in here, eating bison liver (he’s a vegetarian in real life), basically becoming one with the snow, and in a scene reminiscent of The Empire Strikes Back, sleeps inside an animal carcass. Yes, he did that in real life, too.

MORE: B.C. actress portrays Leonardo DiCaprio’s onscreen wife in The Revenant

Does the movie feel too long?
Unfortunately, yes, sometimes the movie drags. Its sheer size, coupled with the gigantic world-view of the cinematography and scope, makes it slower. Iñárritu has a vision and he works to meet it, even though it results in a bit of bloat. The coldness you feel during the movie doesn’t help it feel shorter. Bring a sweater.

Will DiCaprio win the Oscar for this?
His chances are infinitely better than they have been for any other role he’s played. As described above, DiCaprio really gives his all, and you can tell. An interesting detail about his character is there isn’t much dialogue. It’s all in his looks, his body language, his demeanour. When an actor can carry a presence without uttering many words, then that’s an award-worthy performance.

What’s the bottom line, then?
The Revenant is a beautiful film despite its raw ugliness, and as Canadians we should experience some extra joy taking in the scenery. Iñárritu, DiCaprio and Hardy are wholly dedicated to the movie, and that comes out in the final product. DiCaprio fans especially will enjoy it.

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