Awards season is in full swing and, as is always the case with the January releases, the contenders have started trickling into the U.K. The Oscar nominations were the other day and the film leading the way, Alejandro González Iñárritu's The Revenant, has finally released but was all the buzz worth it or not? Read my review of the film after the jump.

This time last year, Iñárritu released the incredible Birdman - what was a triumph in filmmaking achievement - and the film was a runaway victor at the last Oscars. Following on from that, his latest film The Revenant has high standards to follow and expectations to meet, coming off of the director's last triumphant and renowned success - what seems like an impossible feat - but, if there's one director that can top Birdman, it's Iñárritu because his latest picture does exactly that: top what was a great film. It's phenomenal. This is a visceral, astounding and, quite literally, breathtaking cinematic experience that is a display of filmmaking triumph and accomplished craftsmanship and a rare but welcomed gem of true audacity and brilliance in today's age of cinema. This is film as a genuine art, how the medium should be.

Loosely inspired by true events and set in the 1820's American wilderness, on a fur trapping expedition, frontiersman Hugh Glass (Leonardo DiCaprio) is viciously attacked by a bear and left in a near-death state, clinging on to life as best as he can. However, when conditions mean that his crew can't carry him any further, the crew Captain Andrew Henry (Domhnall Gleeson) leaves him under the care of Glass' son (Forest Goodluck) and 2 of his crew members, Jim Bridger (Will Poulter) and John Fitzgerald (Tom Hardy). Tired of playing caretaker, though, Fitzgerald tries to finish Glass off but when he is stopped from doing so, something much worse occurs that sparks anger in Glass. Leaving him for dead and heading off, Glass has to fight for survival and endure the elements - whilst still recovering from being mauled by a grizzly - as his pain and grief drive him to pursuing Fitzgerald and getting his vengeance and redemption for the unforgivable act he committed.

This a revenge story at its heart. Whilst that aspect is the driving force of this film, The Revenant is so much more than just "a revenge story". This is more so man versus nature and the elements than it is man versus man which brings me onto the fact that this film has been more marketed as the latter than the former but, as Youtube film critic Jeremy Jahns said in his review of this film, if you go in expecting a 2 and a half hour revenge thriller of Leonardo DiCaprio facing off against Tom Hardy, you're going to be sorely disappointed. Sure enough, that aspect factors into the film but this is not quite the "blockbuster" people are expecting it to be. This is an intense character study and more so focuses on Leonardo DiCaprio trying to survive than him taking on Tom Hardy which brings me nicely onto one of my biggest warnings for this film: The Revenant is not for the casual movie-goer. If you're the type of person that enjoys big spectacle and popcorn flick blockbusters, this is not for you. However, if you're a true fan of film and are able to appreciate it as an art, if indie films and character studies are your thing, this film is for you and it's phenomenal. The Revenant is an arthouse indie film on an epic scale, not an epic film on the scale of an indie - as the marketing has fooled many to believe.
The film clocks in at just around 156 minutes, which is a fairly long time for any film, and it's a slow burner for sure, taking its time to tell the story. However, despite this, Iñárritu manages to keep you engaged and keep you interested throughout because this film is just so riveting that it never ever drags or never feels too long and never gets boring. There's always something to think about but, also, the film is just such a display of masterful talent all across the board - from directing to acting to cinematography to sound editing - that just the beauty of it all is so captivating and enough to keep your eyes glued to the screen. For starters, the film is gorgeous to look at so, if nothing else, you can't help but admire just how marvellous this looks. The cinematography is some of the best I've ever seen in a film; to the extent that it's quite literally breathtaking. Emmanuel Lubezki is one of the finest cinematographers working today and this shows why, the man is a genius at the top of his game. Every shot is awe-inspiring and gorgeous, so gloriously defined and meticulous, made all the more mind-blowingly impressive by the fact that this whole film was shot in natural lighting and in real situations and environments without any added lighting or effects. The sound is resounding too, making up most of the movie, and Ryuichi Sakamoto's score is a revelation.

Now, as I'm sure you're all aware, there has been much discussion surrounding Leonardo DiCaprio's performance in The Revenant and the fact that this may be the film that finally bags the actor his first, long overdue Oscar. Well, I can safely say that this is his year. DiCaprio gives this film his everything and it is one of the best performances of his career, something to truly behold. He doesn't have very much dialogue and, from the little he does have, a lot of it is in a different language but the actor puts blood, sweat and tears into every little detail and every little expression of Glass' to give a very nuanced and intense performance for a very enigmatic, compelling character and he really deserves the Academy Award for his work. However, DiCaprio isn't the only one that gives an Oscar-worthy performance because Tom Hardy does too. Although, it's a shame because all the awards hype surrounding his co-star means that his phenomenal performance is going unrecognised. From Mad Max: Fury Road to Legend to The Revenant now, Hardy has delivered some remarkable work lately - both Fury Road and this film are, arguably, up there amongst some of the best films of this decade - and, the way he killed it in both Mad Max and Legend, he is a force to be reckoned with in The Revenant too. He brings so much intensity to the character of Fitzgerald and just knocks it out of the park and gives a performance equally as strong, if not, at times, more so, than Leo. The pair are given some incredible support from Will Poulter and Domhnall Gleeson too, both of who are also astonishingly terrific here.

Honestly, The Revenant is a feat of cinematic triumph and achievement. This is the kind of film that should be witnessed on the biggest screen you can see it on. Everything about this drama is just perfect. The acting is astounding; the cinematography is breathtakingly gorgeous; the score and sound design is just epic; the premise is massively compelling and this is a very emotional and powerful picture - again, made all the more resounding because of how much we invest in these characters, especially Glass, and how much we empathise for his struggle and the difficulties these men have to face in this time. Iñárritu's directing is of finesse and his craftsmanship and his vision is truly genius and magnificent. The Revenant is a true display of talent and beauty and showcases just how provocative and stunning film can be. It's a work of art, an elegantly painted masterpiece by an artist at the top of his game. With a whole team delivering stellar work - from DiCaprio to Hardy to Lubezki to Sakamoto to the mastermind Iñárritu himself - The Revenant is a brutal, beautiful and genuinely breathtaking experience. It's a rare gem of stunning filmmaking and audacity and ingenuity that is becoming such a rarity in this industry nowadays - so over-saturated with useless sequels, reboots and blockbusters. The film floored me. Utterly outstanding.

VERDICT:
A masterpiece in every sense of the word. Alejandro G. Iñárritu's The Revenant is, quite simply, one of the best films we'll see in 2016.

About the Author

Awais Irfan
Founder of Oasis Awais, and avid lover of life, Awais Irfan's love of writing and film is unequivocal. Ever since he was a little kid, he has loved the cinematic experience; so much so, he is studying Film Production in Glasgow and hopes to be the next "big thing" in directing.

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