WARNING: This review does have mild spoilers of 'The Revenant'.
'The Revenant' stars Leonardo DiCaprio, Domhnall Gleeson, Tom Hardy, and Will Poulter. It's about a fur trapper named Hugh Glass that gets revenge for the man that murdered his son and left him for dead in the wilderness after he was mauled by a bear.
There's no doubt that 'The Revenant' is a technical achievement. This film has some of the best cinematography ever put to screen, and it's unbelievable how they were able to capture what they did with natural lighting and in the tough conditions they were set in. However, in my opinion I believe this film is more style over substance as the story can slow down significantly, especially in the second act.
As I mentioned above, this is a technical achievement. Alejandro Inñaritu has proved to be one of the best directors of our generation with this and 'Birdman'. One of my favorite aspects of the movie was by far the cinematography. Almost every shot is like a masterful painting due to the stunning set up of the frame or the masterful direction of glorious tracking shots that can last for 3-4 minutes, possibly more. Not only that, but this entire film used natural lighting, so what you will see/saw in the film is all from one source of light: the sun. The way they handle this was brilliant as they use the natural lighting brilliantly. In my opinion, I think it was a great choice not to use artificial lighting as it would've negatively impacted the overall style that Inñaritu was going for. This film definitely proved to be a cinematic pleasure to watch on screen as it beautifully masters the technical aspects of filmmaking.
I must mention the performances given in this film. Everyone gives an outstanding performance. Tom Hardy, Domhnall Gleeson, and even Will Poulter were all fantastic. But as you might've guessed, Leonardo DiCaprio once again delivers big time. What I liked most about his performance was that he didn't have much dialogue in the movie. His character (Hugh Glass) was extremely injured from the bear, and he was unable to speak during his recovery. Not having any dialogue can restrict an actor to only use facial expressions and showing their ultimate talents without their voice, which can be seen as a challenge. Did Leo succeed this obstacle? Yes! He was able to give a beautiful and lively performance using only his body. You can really see the amount of effort DiCaprio put into this character, and I applaud him for doing that. If he doesn't win the oscar, the Academy will be doing a great crime because this was a truly amazing performance.
With brilliant visuals and excellent performances, this film was also EXTREMELY violent. It all feels so raw and gut wrenching because of it's sense of realism. I think using long takes with barely any cuts really helped make all of these intense scenes feel very real. At points I found it hard to watch due to the extreme brutality, especially during the bear scene. If you haven't heard about the "bear rape" scene, Glass doesn't get raped, but is mauled by a bear. It's such brutal and violent scene that was very tough to watch as it's very gory and bloody while also having a great amount of intensity as it feels like Glass is clinging for his life. You can see his entire body being torn apart by the bear, and it just adds to the overall violent tone. That's just one of the many scenes that will have you disgusted. Although disturbing to watch, it feels very realistic and I have no idea how they were able to capture such raw violence.
The overall story was great, but it can really slow down significantly. The first and third acts are amazing as it has your attention from start to finish with brilliant moments of intensity and violence, but the second act falls flat as there's not much going on during this time. This is where Hugh Glass is going back to his people to kill the man that ruined his life. While it still maintains the cinematic beauty, it can become extremely boring at points. Even in the first and third act, there are some moments where it's a bit slow, but it's not as bad compared to the middle.
Overall, 'The Revenant' is an excellent film that should be seen as a cinematic achievement for it's intense nature during filming, and the usage of natural lighting. It has some great performances, especially from Leo. It can drag on at points, but the overall style is so fascinating and lovely to see onscreen.
MY SCORE: 8.5/10