Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu’s second Oscar win for best direction and Leonardo DiCaprio’s first win was for their work in this thrilling historical drama based on Michael Punke’s novel of the same name. This movie which also garnered Emmanuel Lubezki’s third Oscar in a row for cinematography was supposedly the movie that was going to nab the Oscar for best picture as well… But that didn’t happen. Even though it didn’t win the Oscar, the movie was still a box office success and was a fantastic film that wowed critics and audiences alike. The cast has wonderful onscreen chemistry and the characters seem to find their individual puzzle brick with ease. The cinematography in this film is absolutely stunning and awe-inspiring and the special effects—most notably the bear fight—are very realistic and frightening.
The cast which revolves around DiCaprio’s character Hugh Glass, stars Leonardo DiCaprio as the injured frontiersman Hugh Glass, Tom Hardy as the villainous John Fitzgerald, Domhnall Gleeson as the dutiful and straight-faced Andrew Henry, Will Poulter as the whiny and mildly annoying Bridger, and introducing Forrest Goodluck as Glass’ son. Leonardo DiCaprio shows off his wonderful acting chops, as the protagonist of the film, by carrying the majority of scenes. Even though the character had a very limited amount of dialogue due to the fact that most of his scenes were solo-scenes DiCaprio has such great physical acting skills that he could with very small movements convey a great deal of emotion. The antagonist John Fitzgerald, played by Tom Hardy, was in my opinion the most interesting of the characters. The character had such defined goals and motives and—spoiler alert—it is very pleasing to watch his whole plan fall apart. Domhnall Gleeson plays yet another minor role in a well-received movie in the 2015 season (Brooklyn, Ex Machina, Star Wars, and now this). There is not a whole of flesh on this character as he only has about ten minutes of screen time, but there is a moment in the final act when we really do get to see the versatility of this Irish actor. Will Poulter is perhaps the weak link in this film as he comes off as the one character who makes you cringe; Poulter, who—in my mind—will never be able to play a character other than the one he played in We’re the Millers, comes off awkward and annoying to the audience. And finally Forrest Goodluck debuts in his first film as DiCaprio’s onscreen son who—despite his limited runtime—manages to showcase his thus far untapped talent.
The story is surprisingly thin and has—at least in my opinion—a very predictable story with a very scarce twists and turns. There’s also not a whole lot to say about the screenplay as the majority of the film is either grunts and groans, not spoken in English, or Gleeson’s character yelling “Fitzgerald!” over and over again. But the direction is fantastic… I would especially like to point out the direction of one of the first scenes in which DiCaprio’s team gets attacked by a tribe of Native Americans. That may be one of the best-directed scenes in the 21st century. Also a very big stand-out was the cinematography of this film; Lubezki simply does not disappoint. Every single frame of the picture looks so thought-out and well-planned and theatrical. And it doesn’t divert the audience’s attention from the action at all. It rather helps the audience know what to focus on and what and who to care about. But the camera-work is not the only aspect of the film that looks wonderful—it’s the best but not the only—the visual effects, most notably the famous bear fight, are absolutely splendid. The bear fight looks so realistic and painful that as you watch it you almost start to wish the effects hadn’t been that good because you really do feel for Hugh Glass. But the finale fight of the film is also quite remarkable as it may be one of the most personal film fights ever, as the two combatants exchange stabs with such emotional force and intention. So yeah… The film looked good. But gosh darn it! The movie sounded splendid as well with the original score by Ryuichi Sakamoto and Alva Noto accenting and nuancing everything that happened onscreen with such incredible tonality.
The film is a feast of splendid acting, directing, cinematography, visual effects and music. The only aspect that is mildly lacking is the story itself, but the lacking story is almost seemingly unimportant when put up against everything that this power-house of a film has to offer. This movie really does up the game in a series of different categories.
Best Aspect- Emmanuel Lubezki’s cinematography
Worst Aspect- The kid from We’re the Millers