Beautiful/Brutal: A Critique of “The Revenant”

[SPOILERS FOR THE REVENANT AHEAD]

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Alejandro G. Iñárritu’s The Revenant focuses on the “true story” of American trapper Hugh Glass.  In the early 19th century, Glass was brought on as a scout to aid a fur trading company’s expedition. Iñárritu and cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki transport the audience to the chaotic American frontier of the country’s infancy to tell an astonishing story of vengeance and rebirth.

Alejandro Iñárritu’s and Emmanuel Lubezki’s comfort in working with one another is perfectly transferred on screen as their natural abilities as storytellers specializing in existential crises are in full force here. Lubezki’s frequent transitions from suffocating close-ups to isolating aerial shots force the viewer to grapple with the significance of humankind. This also helps to elicit such emotion from the actors that the viewer may question their own resolve and wonder what would keep them moving forward. 

Each scene displaying the vastly beautiful and untouched landscape these men lived off of lulls the audience into a false sense of calm that is quickly and brutally stripped away by grisly and tragic battle scenes. This false tranquility is immediately taken away in the opening scene, as The Revenant wastes no time in making the viewer’s heart rate climb. Glass must maneuver through a proverbial wall of death to rescue his son and escape an Arikara Native American attack.

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