In 1823, a group of hunters traveling through wild U.S. territory suffers heavy losses in an ambush by Arikara Indians. Some survivors escape by boat and Hugh Glass (Leonardo DiCaprio), a veteran hunter who knows the zone, advises them to abandon the vessel and continue on foot. Their commander, Captain Andrew Henry (Domhnall Gleeson), agrees with Glass, but others, including the troubled John Fitzgerald (Tom Hardy), are furious to learn that they have to leave behind most of their valuable pelts. While scouting ahead Glass gets attacked by a grizzly bear when he disturbs her infants, suffering severe wounds all over his body before he is able to kill her. Captain Henry tries to heal him as best as he can, but he soon realizes that the group will have to leave him behind. He pays Fitzgerald and the inexperienced Jim Bridger (Will Poulter) to watch over Glass until he dies and ensure that he’ll be properly buried. Glass’s half native son, Hawk, volunteers to accompany them. Fitzegard manages to leave Glass behind, claiming that an Indian attack is imminent, he throws Glass in a shallow grave and steals his tools. This is when the long and painful survival story of the still living Hugh Glass starts…
This historical survival drama directed by Alejandro G. Iñárritu shows this directors majestic understanding of the seventh art at its best. If someone ever asks me again why Iñárritu is within my top 5 directors I can only advice him to watch this movie. It has no complex story to tell, it is a rather traditional western revenge story, but the way it’s told and brought to screen is what makes it absolutely unique. There are a lot of incredible facts about this film project, as the absence of artificial light and the 100% chronologically filmed scenes or the fact that the naked Leonardo DiCaprio truly crawled inside the body of a dead horse. Yeah, this is really no movie for veggies. Filming this movie was a colossal project that took the team as far to the north and to the south of the American continent as they could get to take these fascinating shots.
I really ask myself how, much of Iñarritus prestige is due to Emmanuel Lubezki who once again took charge of iñarritu’s movie cinematography and won the Oscar for the third consecutive time after winning it for Gravity (2013) and Birdman (2014) and helped Iñarritu to win the second Oscar for best director in a row, after Birdman (2014). The shots in this movie are so long, so intense and often look impossible to take. With a cinematographer like him you don’t need to have an interesting plot. Watching these shots and trying to understand how they could possibly have been made is already entertaining enough.
And I can only say the same about Leonardo DiCaprio’s Oscar winning performance as Hugh Glass. This character is so much in pain throughout the whole movie and DiCaprio manages so well to make me feel Hugh Glass’ pain. Don’t watch this movie if you feel like you can’t handle that. It is one of the best if not THE best performance by Leonardo DiCaprio and he clearly deserved the Oscar for this one.
But sadly the plot is not good enough for the movie to earn a 10/10. The movie is interesting but feels a bit too long for what it has to offer and DiCaprios performance and Lubezkis shots sadly get forgotten way quicker in the human mind than an interesting plot.
You will enjoy the movie a lot while watching it and you will want to watch it again. But after a few weeks you possibly won’t be able to remember any details.