Alejandro G. Iñárritu’s follow up to his Oscar-winning Birdman, is an exhausting spectacle that is both epic and intimate at the same time. It truly is a feast for the senses, and is the kind of film that is so involving, you feel as though you have personally suffered through the situation of the main protagonist as you stumble out of the dark cinema.
The film follows the true (although tweaked tremendously) story of Hugh Glass (Leonardo DiCaprio), a frontiersman who, whilst on a trapping expedition, is attacked by a bear and injured to the extent that his team has to carry him everywhere on a stretcher. He is then left behind with Tom Hardy’s John Fitzgerald, and Will Poulter’s inexperienced Jim Bridger, as well as Glass’ half-Indian son, Hawk. Upon a failed attempt to murder Glass (so he could leave and rejoin the expedition), Fitzgerald kills Glass’s son and tries to bury Glass alive, before leaving with Bridger. The rest of the film follow’s Glass’ struggle to survive as he attempts to find Fitzgerald and wreak his revenge. The plot is simple, yet made captivating, and, despite arguably being a little predictable upon occasion, has an epic feel to it.
The film is one of the most visually stunning spectacles in years. Emmanuel Lubezki reteams with Iñárritu to deliver breath-taking cinematography consisting of extremely well-choreographed long takes, striking landscape shots, as well as intimate close ups, fully immersing you in Glass’s ordeal. The bleak colour palette and choice of shots are vital to the emotional aspect of the film as, for the majority of the film, these, and DiCaprio’s performance in dialogue-less scenes, are the only tools with which emotion can be conveyed.
Despite the difficulty in making the film now seemingly being over-talked about, the incredible visuals that come from using only natural light seem to make it worth it. Capturing the events in this light seems to add another layer to the spectacle, as well as a sense of authenticity that serves to heighten the tense nature of the story.
DiCaprio’s performance is incredible. Often without dialogue, he fully conveys the entire emotional spectrum his character is facing as he claws his way back to civilization. Due to his character’s solitude, DiCaprio carries much of the film, his performance so enthralling, it causes the audience to really experience the film along with him. The supporting cast are also fantastic, helping to build up the characters’ relationships and show different perspectives on certain events.
The film leaves its ending open, like Birdman, and includes a moment where the fourth wall is broken which is so chilling, something earned by all of the events that have come before it.
The result is an exhaustingly involving film that is so extraordinary, it is likely to become a classic of its genre.