Film Review: The Revenant

by Evan Brown

Rated MA15+. Starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Tom Hardy, Domnhall Gleeson. Directed by Alejandro G. Iñárritu.

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas.  Everywhere you go, toys in every store and soon the bells will start. Christmas is almost here.  As a food enthusiast this makes me excited as it won’t be too long before I’m lying on the couch post-Christmas lunch feeling sorry for myself for eating too much honey-glazed ham (I will only have myself to blame).

As a film enthusiast this makes me even more excited as the slew of blockbuster movies finally come out of the woodshed. Fresh off his four Oscar wins for Birdman Alejandro Iñárritu has boldly teamed up with Oscar-less Leonardo DiCaprio to bring us his latest project The Revenant, a 19th century American tale of exploration, adventure and revenge.

The expectations are high for both Iñárritu and DiCaprio and Revenant has already received four Golden Globe nominations before its release.  Will The Revenant be of the same calibre as Birdman or will it sit forever in its shadow?

And will this be the performance that will finally get Leo that long awaited statue or will he be (some say unjustly) overlooked again?

The Revenant follows Hugh Glass (DiCaprio) an early 19th Century tracker who leads a group of poachers into uncharted Yellowstone.  After a vicious and epic battle between Glass and a seven-foot grizzly bear, Glass is left for dead in the wilderness as his company flee the oncoming winter and ferocious Native Americans.  Transfixed on vengeance Glass literally crawls his way back from death to life and becomes a human revenant. The protagonist poetically becomes the title of the movie.  For those who aren’t familiar with the term “revenant” it simply means a person who returns from death – usually as a spirit or ghost but in this case as a person.

Intentional or not The Revenant is littered with Christian parallels and this film is a great catalyst for discussion in regards to Jesus and the good news his death and resurrection brings.  Here are two quick ways to do that with your friends after watching this film.

  1. The title: The Revenant.  Jesus was the true revenant.  He actually came back from the dead.

“He was put to death but made alive in the Spirit” 1 Peter 3:18

2. The subtitle: “Blood Lost, Life Found”.  Jesus died so that that we may have life.  He literally lost blood so we could find life.

“In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace…” Ephesians 1:7

The Revenant is breathtakingly beautiful and Iñárritu’s cinematography is one of the few films to give Yellowstone the cinematic justice it deserves.  At times it felt like an advertisement for Apple’s latest operating system (I say that in a good way). Combining this with the emotionally-driven soundtrack (Sakamoto and Nicolai) Iñárritu’s landscape pans will make your heart yearn for a location you haven’t even been to before.

This film however is not just a collection of picturesque landscape sweeps that will make you feel all warm and fuzzy inside. Iñárritu masterfully combines these heart-warmers with heart-wrenches and the serenely beautiful is juxtaposed with the graphic and violent throughout the film.  This will result in a cyclic mixture of emotion: peace, horror, serenity, anxiousness etc.

As expected, Leo portrays his character as a hardened 1820s tracker very convincingly and I won’t be surprised if he receives a nomination for his performance (whether he wins or not is another political story).  Tom Hardy is also exceptional in his portrayal of the incomprehensible mercenary however his accent was so strong I found it hard to understand what he was saying most of the time. Subtitles please?

There are some truly gruesome moments in this film and I do not recommend it for those with a weak stomach. There are also some truly beautiful moments in the film and I do recommend it for those who appreciate good cinematography.

The Verdict: Following the critical success of Birdman, Iñárritu’s follow up film The Revenant has been tipped as the one to watch this season and I couldn’t agree more. Grab a friend and go watch it. 4/5

The Revenant will be released in Australia and the US on January 7th, and in the UK on January 15th.

For more film reviews from a Christian perspective, connect with Reel Gospel on Facebook and Twitter.

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