So the previews would have you believe this is a 50% Survival / 50% Revenge story, but the truth is it's about 90% Survival / 10% Revenge. The basic premise being Hugh Glass (DiCaprio), after being nearly killed, gets left for dead and has to survive a brutal winter while being hunted by Native Americans AND still recovering from said wounds. Overall the hero has a lot to overcome, and I thought this was a pretty great movie, but I'm not sure everyone would agree. I gave this movie a 9/10, but my wife near fell asleep, and I don't blame her.
So here's what I loved about it.
1) The Revenant picked a theme and stuck to it: Brutal survival in the merciless clutches of uncivilized land. All the details from atmosphere, sound, dirt, and angles focused on putting the audience in a real-time view of the harsh American frontier. The Revenant was intense without ever going into the extreme. By simply focusing on what things would actually be like in a winter setting, no MichaelBayness was needed to cheese things over, keeping the movie in the grips of such intensity that it's hard to let go.
2) The art: Now, I don't know much about how movies are made, nor would I call myself some sort of movie-snob, but I do appreciate a movie that attempts to be artful. The Revenant had long, continuous, up close shots that really put you in the moment. Difficult to do, I imagine, but absolutely beautiful when done right. A camera that moves slowly but deliberately through intense, action packed scenes with every detailed etched liked a painting really digs in the realism of it all and makes for unparalleled storytelling in my opinion, and The Revenant had just gorgeous shots that encased every theme this movie wanted to hit on.
Also, great acting. Can't forget that. Not much else to be said there, really.
So here's why I knocked off that 1 point, and I also shrugged my understanding when my wife said it was "alright." In its path to make a brutal, realistic survival story in a skilled and artful way, the entertainment side kind of got dropped. Let's be real, watching a guy struggle for survival isn't exactly fun or entertaining. It's actually painful and nerve-wracking to watch, and at the end of The Revenant when the credits rolled, the theater was dead silent. No glimmer of hope, or shimmer of relief. Nature is an unforgivable, unsympathetic entity with no concern for us, and The Revenant made sure you remembered that.
So, The Revenant is a movie you kinda need to be in the mood for. But when you are, nothing else will do.