Golden Globe winner stuns audiences

Photo courtesy of 20th Century Fox

Just in time for awards season, director Alejandro Iñárritu brings his first film since “Birdman” (2014), the film that took home four Oscars (including Best Picture and Best Director) and blew away audiences and critics alike with its incredible acting, extraordinary storytelling and creepy drum score. “The Revenant” stars Leonardo DiCaprio (“The Wolf of Wall Street,” “Titanic”) as Hugh Glass, a fur trapper and frontiersman in 1820s South Dakota. The plot follows his harrowing and challenging return journey and persistence to enact his growing vengeance upon the man who left him for dead after a bear mauling, John Fitzgerald (Tom Hardy, “The Dark Knight Rises”).

The story has a strong anchor in history, as most essential characters are named accurately and are motivated by their real-life counterparts’ decisions. Hugh Glass was, in fact, left for dead by Fitzgerald, but the film, based on a Michael Punke’s novel of the same name, obviously dramatizes the affair. Instead of launching himself on a violent quest for decisive revenge, Glass actually battled to survive and find his way back to his home base, an outpost called Fort Kiowa, an astounding 200-mile journey.

Iñárritu also shakes up the dramatic web by removing DiCaprio’s character from the other fur trappers, developing him as sort of a “Dances with Wolves” type (or “Avatar” type, as they are essentially the same film) with a history living with the Pawnee tribe and often referring to his relationship with a Pawnee woman who bore him a son. Brilliantly rubbing the edge of the usually black and white divide between the Whites and the Native Americans, spawning a complex gray-area protagonist with muddled allegiances, yet a distinct and sturdy set of morals.

This is a truly beautiful film. From the opening seconds, Iñárritu treats his cinematography like scales — a balance between the brutality and beauty of the Dakotas. The film contrasts frosty peaks, clear, crisp streams and deep green and brilliant white sprawling landscapes with gruesome battles and animal encounters, perfectly detailing the duality of nature. It is the classic case of a proud lion: a stunning, regal creature with intricate musculature and an immaculate anatomical layout, but the lion doubles as a machine, engineered to kill for meat without remorse. Iñárritu’s artful cinematography won the Golden Globe for his feat of brutal beauty, and is a sure lock for the Academy Award.

The spectacular setting of “The Revenant” makes it a film experience worthy of a trip to the cinema, but what propels it to the next level — a level closer to film mastery — is the strong acting, particularly that of Leonardo DiCaprio and Tom Hardy. Over the years, Leo has become a fan favorite and also managed to establish himself as an elite actor. While he could have been a bit more passionate as Hugh Glass, he was in front of the camera nearly for the entirety of the film, and mixes fear, wonder and determination into his character. As an A-list actor, though, his performance was expected, and the actor who truly exceeded was Tom Hardy. Previously only known as Bane in “The Dark Knight Rises,” Tom Hardy exploded into the 2015 mainstream film world with essential roles in five huge films, most notably the delightfully action-packed “Mad Max” revamp. Iñárritu uses his hauntingly deep voice to transform the British actor into a Texas native with an obsessively greedy and brutal nature, forming a gripping antagonist.

Alejandro Iñárritu, the Mexican-born director, producer and writer who has the potential to be one of the greats, delivers a fantastic piece of filmmaking once again with “The Revenant.” The film is a must-see in theaters, but know that DiCaprio’s big ticket name does not mean that the movie is simply a shell for his performance: there are many complex layers to this very intricate film.

Overall: 4/5