It takes a lot for a movie to convince me to write a blog post about it. I generally don’t do movie reviews, and this isn’t one. What this is, is a reflection; a documentation of experiences and feelings. For the next few minutes, I want to pour myself out just a bit.
The Revenant was an impulse buy. I was strolling through Target and saw it on the shelf almost by happenstance. In the most ironic fashion, I quickly checked to see if it was cheaper on Amazon. To my surprise, it wasn’t, so I grabbed it. With my upcoming foray into 4K, I grabbed the 4K UHD + Blu-Ray + Digital HD combo pack for about $25 plus tax.
After grabbing some lunch to go, I promptly shuttled myself home and popped the disc into my PlayStation 4. I had heard good things about this movie and I wanted to obtain the highest quality experience I could muster with what I had. This meant grabbing my Bose noise-canceling headphones and plugging them into my PlayStation4 remote and opting to pipe all audio through them.
Best. Idea. Ever.
(some mild spoilers ahead)
From the very beginning, I knew I was going to enjoy this movie. I will quickly get enthralled with any kind of atmospheric experience and I feel The Revenant definitely delivered.
The last time I felt my emotions match that of the character on screen, I cannot recall. This film isn’t just about fur trapper in the vast and monolithic landscape that was the unexplored west of America. It’s not survival movie. Leonardo DiCaprio’s character isn’t battling nature.
This movie is a battle of man. The struggle between human nature and nature’s humans. As the song goes this land is your land, this land is my land, from California, to the New York Islands… except it wasn’t. This land was vast and untouched. Scar-free. Void of the cancers that man inflicted on it.
It’s also man versus himself. Man versus his inner corrupted soul. Man versus his desire for more at any cost. Man versus his bloodlust for alpha status.
Throughout the journey on which the film takes you, a feeling of sadness sets in and you start to feel overwhelmed with the chaos unfolding. The fight against (definitely not with) nature will take its toll on you, the viewer.
When you start to feel what the characters are feeling… when you find yourself frustrated and wishing for nothing more than for Hugh to pick himself up and keep going… you quickly realize that’s not how this works.
Fighting against man is something man will do forever. Man’s mind is narrow, shallow, and full of arrogance. If they’re not careful, man will consume itself.
You’re in a battle with yourself and the world around you (in a metaphorical sense); there isn’t an endless supply of energy and motivation. There’ll come a time when you feel defeated.
That’s when you choose what’s most important to fight for. Do you fight against one or fight for another? Where do you think your real hidden strength lies?
Coming back to nature for a moment, in this context, nature is the helpless victim in this battle. Nature will fight back, but can only fight for so long. The infamous bear scene is a pure and gritty example of this. This isn’t a bear attacking the character, this is nature defending itself.
Until it can’t. Man has won… but at what cost?
Weaved into the major story is a minor story about personal loss. Imagine what it would be like to lost the ones you loved to such savagery with no way to stop it. Just watching the world around you fall to pieces is enough to make anyone lose their shit. The commentary on this is: it’s real. Those who are closest to you have the most profound effect on you both when they’re by your side and when they’re gone.
By now you’re probably thinking I’m out of my damn mind. Being unaware of the complexities is one thing… to pretend they’re not there is another.
The larger message of this film is how man took over the land we call America. It was gritty, chaotic, violent, and fucking selfish. The White Man was a savage beast that stopped at nothing to get what he wanted, all the while thinking the natives were the savage ones. The hubris was overflowing. The amount of blood, tears, sadness, and anger this country was built on is enough for millions of lifetimes. The expense? Heartache. Loss. Sadness.
Director Alejandro Iñárritu is a master craftsman. The visuals are pristine, as was the land before. The entirety of the film1 was shot with all natural light. If it’s dark, it’s dark. If it’s light, it’s light. The absence of artificial atmosphere will pull you in. You’ll be in awe of the landscapes, shot mostly in Canada and Montana. The crispness of the air, the ice-cold flowing rivers, and the crunch of the soft-packed snow will stimulate your senses.
On top of the visuals, Ryuichi Sakamoto’s soundtrack does an amazing job of hitting home the feelings described above and experienced throughout the movie. I’d be surprised if you don’t feel like you need a hug after witnessing what it’s like to be alone, clinging to life, with only yourself and what drives you to keep motivation at least sub par.
But don’t take my word for it. Don’t take my word for any of it. Go watch it, yourself. Go experience it, yourself. You’ll thank me.