Viewed – 28 January 2016 Cinema
(updated: 06/08/2016) Director Alejandro González Iñárritu is quickly becoming one of my favorite film makers, and I can’t say I’ve yet seen a movie that hasn’t impressed me in some way. After all his last effort, Birdman was my movie of the year for 2015. So him teaming up with one of my favorite actors, namely Leonardo DiCaprio seemed a marriage made in heaven.
DiCaprio plays frontiersman Hugh Glass who whilst out with a group of men to gather supplies and food for their village, is attacked by a Grizzly bear and almost killed. Despite his comrades choosing to help and carry him back home, the journey proves too tough so Tom Hardy’s conflicted frontiersman and Glass’s half Indian son along with another of the men choose to stay behind and find a less treacherous way around a mountain to get back home. Only problem is Hardy is only out for himself and double crosses Glass, abandoning him. Glass then has to survive against the odds to find a way back home in a harsh and unforgiving wilderness.
Superlatively filmed with no end of eye-catching skill, Iñárritu delivers a gritty and powerful experience that leaves little to the imagination. DiCaprio gives more a truly physical performance than a typical acting one and has only smatterings of dialogue throughout. Yet he is convincing as hell as he faces off against the elements; stampeding buffalo, hostile Indian tribes and nature itself whilst tending to wounds that would normally kill the average man. I was thoroughly gripped by Glass’s plight and even though his journey is long and ponders life, death, love and family among all the survival stuff, I wasn’t bored. However, the grueling tone felt hard going and it gets fairly gory in places, meaning some scenes were quite unsettling. It’s also rather vague with the details, who’s who, when the story is actually set etc. Yet as Glass faces one problem after the other, the drawn out sequences and almost dream-like feel seemed necessary to get the full effect. Hardy is also very good despite a difficult to understand accent, but his character was probably one of the more interesting he’s taken on for a while. However above all else I’d call this Iñárritu’s show – his eye for poetic imagery, stunning cinematography and amazing detail even made such things as running water look gorgeous – and boy can he film a battle sequence!
It’s not a movie to expect it’s point to be reached all that quickly. It’s also quite unconventional as far as it’s performances go. Yet it’s a story that needs to slowly unravel and linger on things, which granted won’t be for everyone. But if like me you can appreciate real film making with real meaning, then this is simply essential viewing.
Verdict: 5 /5