The story, a tale of vengeance, the wilds, a western, a bloody violence. The stellar cast includes Leonardo DiCapri, Tom Hardy and Domhnall Gleeson. The 3 time Golden Globe winning flick is surely set to clear up at the Oscars having received the most nominations. Surely (and hopefully) that elusive gong will finally be in Leo’s hands. So, to the review then.
Off top, what you want to hear is that the cinematography is beautiful. And it is. Emmanuel Lubezki can expect some awards to grace the mantle piece over the coming months. He’s been nominated for 7 Academy Awards, and winning last year with “Birdman” and “Gravity” in 2014 shows his pedigree. Iñárritu and Lubezki’s insisted on shooting using only natural light in locations with minimal daylight hours. The filming techniques here drop you right in the middle of the landscapes, dangling on a brittle piece of string next to the characters experiencing the cold, harsh, washed out wilderness of the Louisiana Purchase. The Director, Oscar-winner, Alejandro González Iñárritu, known for the one-take style of shooting that “Birdman” was lauded (and hated) for, employs the same technique more reductively here. The camera pans and tracks around battle scenes, horses, gun barrels and arrows, bringing a visceral, immersive feel to the shots. On other occasions it simply draws you in to a suspenseful moment on screen. Iñárritu also produced and wrote the adaptation for the film from Michael Punke’s novel. More strings to his bow.
I will not be describing in excruciating detail, the key scene of the film, thereby lessening suspense and dulling the experience. So do not worry. I will however make some comparisons so stop reading now if you haven’t seen the film yet. This is spoiler city. And you will be part of the population if you continue reading. So, “The Bear” scene. That one. Fuck. That’s probably a word many people will use to describe what happens at this point about 30 minutes into the film. It’s unsparingly savage. Perhaps, in my older years, the whole blood and gore thing might be affecting me a little more but this one takes the biscuit. It actually takes the biscuit, slobbers all over it, breaks it, then, just when you think the biscuit is fucked, the poor soggy bastard gets crushed up and tossed. That might be a little much for a sad story about a biscuit but seriously, you feel everything that happens in this scene so intensely. The gouging, the breath, the bare ribs and torn flesh. It’s uncomfortable, it’s terse and it stays with you. I may have described that in quite a bit of detail? Whoops.
The sequence of events from bear attack, to brutal murder and Fitzgerald’s (Hardy) twisted lack of moral compass results in a thrilling performance from the cast here on. This film is of course semi-biographical so you might know there was no son to Hugh Glass in the book but I suppose they had to up the ante of the revenge angle for a movie. The loss of his favorite gun probably wasn't going to cut it on the screen. Over the next couple of hours the journey of Glass, over coming adversity, blood thirsty for revenge, tinged with melancholy, becomes the focal point of the picture. Nursing his wounds, simply surviving in the bleak cold, spliced with dream like sequences and visions, we are with him to the end. The delirium that Glass experiences translates wholly to the landscape where at times you think the snow sweeping across the icy terrain is in fact gushing water flowing down the Missouri, the ground beneath him disappearing with grave equine consequences.
It’s worth noting that the score for the score for the film, composed by Ryuichi Sakamoto, Bryce Dessner and Alva Noto is both striking and enhancing. Beautiful glacial strings bring an emotive quality to the stark coldness of the snowy pines. If anyone has seen the director’s 2006 masterpiece “Babel”, starring Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchett, you’ll know this is no fluke. I loved the score for that movie and it picked up the Oscar for Best Original Score back then. Perhaps, his former composing days have left him with that sensibility for collaborating with the right people. I’m trying to think of a film to compare this to and I’m failing. Maybe my knowledge of cinema is lacking or perhaps, it’s simply that the performances here are just so powerful, bolstered by such immense direction that there is no need to compare. I’d urge anyone to make the trip to the cinema for this one. Leave your thoughts in the comment section below and thanks for reading.