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Film Review: Left for dead DiCaprio commands the screen in “The Revenant”

Rating: A

It’s not too often that directors and producers dip their hands into the bottomless bag of American folklore, pull out an incredible story and mold it into something unsettling and beautiful. Master filmmaker Alejandro G. Inarritu’s “The Revenant” pays homage to the story of historic American frontiersman and trapper Hugh Glass and his quest for revenge against the man who left him for dead. With a star-studded cast and crew, along with a large dose of testosterone, it’s no wonder why this flick that has everybody talking received 12 Academy Award nominations.

You notice an obvious theme when you first watch the trailer. Yes, Leonardo DiCaprio — who has enough power to make a movie popular just by being present — plays the protagonist, but the biggest star of them all is nature. It has a force unequal to anything else and causes huge problems not only for fictional characters, like Glass, but for real people as well. According to many sources, including the cast and crew themselves, the movie was almost a bust due to the difficult struggle of filming in frigid climates such as Alberta, Canada and Argentina. Inarritu himself believed very much that the movie should have very little computer-generated imagery (CGI), which added significantly to the movie’s “natural” look. He even opted for natural lighting.

Have you ever seen a home video? Perhaps one of those ones that your parent’s took of you and your siblings when you were younger? The use of a single camera and strict, sweeping motions comes to mind when analyzing the cinematography that went into the principal photography. You’ll notice this in the opening battle sequence and the climax. This is the brainchild of longtime cinematographer and director of photography Emmanuel Lubezki, who won consecutive Academy Awards for his work on “Gravity” and “Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance).” Obviously he is one of the best, and his ability to capture anything from an arrow whizzing by to long sweeping shots of picturesque but unforgiving landscapes, is impeccable.

For all the hard work that went into production, the movie may not have been successful if it were not for a talented cast. Featured prominently is DiCaprio, who has been in many box-office hits dating all the way back to “Titanic.” His ability to show pure emotion and demonstrate hardened survival skills in the most difficult situations makes audiences quiver, though, if he actually did sleep inside a dead horse, he may give Bear Grylls a run for his money.

Adding to the supporting cast are Tom Hardy, Will Poulter and Domhnall Gleeson. Hardy has recently received high praise for his performance in “Mad Max: Fury Road” while the young Poulter is known for his roles in “The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader” and, more recently, “We’re the Millers.” Despite having a larger part in this one, Gleeson is known for portraying General Hux in the recent and box-office breaking “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” and Bill Weasley in the final two Harry Potter movies.

Inarritu’s newest film has set the bar high for what is to come in 2016. It endured and overcame many challenges and is now on its way to becoming one of the most famous renditions of Hugh Glass’ unyielding revenge story. It’s unforgettable, unshakeable and uncompromising, and that’s just the way a movie should be.

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