The Revenant is a visual feast of a movie that will leave you shivering.
Far too many movies these days rely too heavily on green screen techniques and CGI (computer generated imagery). Some of those movies leave you feeling that you have just watched a cartoon-like, unreal world.
Not so the latest offering from Mexican director Alejandro González Iñárritu (Birdman). An astonishing 93% of this visual feast is shot on location.
And WHAT locations! Truly stunning scenery in remote wilderness areas mainly around Kanasiskis County, near Calgary in Canada. Other scenes were filmed next door in Montana, USA, and in Tierra del Fuego, Argentina. This combines to give a visual feast of gorgeous, snowy, brutally harsh winter landscapes which made shooting this movie an extremely arduous and demanding experience for the cast and crew. They had to actually endure the conditions you see in the film, while at the same time acting their hearts out.
The cast includes Leonardo de Caprio, playing frontiersman Hugh Glass, a fur trapper and wilderness guide in the 1820s. He turns in a masterpiece performance that really deserves the Oscar nomination that followed. His acting in some really harrowingly brutal scenes (especially the bear attack) will leave you breathless and shivering. He definitely suffers for his art in this movie.
Tom Hardy is somewhat typecast as a violent killer who stabs to death the mixed-blood son of Glass, and then abandons the already severely injured, bear-ravaged Glass to die in a shallow grave.
But Glass survives, and what follows is a delight for people who actually like spending time in these conditions (like me). The wilderness survival skills he displays are at the same time accurate and yet disturbingly brutal.
His hunt to track the killer of his son sees him fighting his injuries, enduring the worst weather mother nature can throw at him, and running from warring indigenous tribes and hostile trappers.
Another notable technical aspect to The Revenant is the lighting. This film was shot almost entirely in natural light – an impressive feat, considering that there isn’t much daylight to be had in those locations in the winter. It gives scenes a soft, lovely, watery grey-blue winter look, while night time scenes are lit by fire, candles or the moon.
Together with the cinematography (worthy of another Oscar, if you ask me) this gives you an eerily realistic, immersive experience. In particular, the battle scenes are shot with very small wide angle cameras which really make you feel that you are right in the middle of the action!
I can thoroughly recommend this film, even if you aren’t the outdoors type. The acting, directing, lighting, scenery, cinematography – they all combine for a cinematic feast for the eyes. But some scenes are not for the faint of heart!
In order to fully appreciate the majesty of those epic vistas, I strongly recommend that you see The Revenant on the biggest screen that you can – it will immerse you in a world of savage beauty that will have you digging out your camping kit in no time (IMAX, anyone?).
And good luck to Mr. De Caprio. An Oscar worthy performance, if ever I saw one!
UPDATE 1: As of tonight, February 14 2016, The Revenant has won the BAFTA Award for best film, best director, best actor (Di Caprio), best cinematography, and best sound! ! Told ya! Roll on the Oscars…