The Revenant ★★★★★

The cinematic equivalent of a silent scream belted into the frozen air in a plea for justice, mercy, or salvation, Alejandro González Iñárritu's "The Revenant" is a stunning, searing work of cinema. A tale of survival and vengeance where a man finds himself a victim of both nature and humanity, the Western is ravishingly assembled and rivetingly told.

"The Revenant" focuses on an injured man, Hugh Glass, whose damaged existence threatens the safety of his comrades, a band of fur trappers and traders making its way through the North American wilderness in the 19th century. When the band leaves Glass in the assumed capable hands of three others, Glass's life becomes one marked by an odyssey of survival and revenge.

Combining patterns of naturalism and both folk and heroic literature, the beating heart of "The Revenant" is its vibrant yet simple narrative. The story finds human beings at odds with the dangers of the natural world, willing victims of animal, geography, and weather in exchange for riches. Wrapped in this primal tale of naturalism is an outsized revenge story, but the film's quest for that vengeance is tempered a certain spirituality flowing from the beliefs of the narrative's human players. It is a compelling, textured mix of the real, the emotional, and the intangible.

Iñárritu creates something beautiful out of the narrative. Cameras flow over natural landscapes, capturing the striking gorgeousness of plateaus and mountains, river and rapid. These cameras seem to absorb the film's settings organically, interrupted by edits only seldomly. Those settings are designed and rendered in manner that is both genuine and mythic. Dynamically drifting from scenes of violence to scenes of mediation, the speed of the work is accessible and measured.

Emmanuel Lubezki's work on "The Revenant" is gorgeous. The cinematographer provides the ideal lens for Iñárritu's film, painting scenes in vibrant and lively colors from the North American palette. Sun, snow, shadow, and silt blend and give rise to a breathtaking visual signature.

As Glass, Leonardo DiCaprio offers a character who is broken and haunted, yet given life by a unending need for justice. He is coated in filth and nary able to speak, but DiCaprio's Glass is a rumbling, raging, and memorable hero given life by an excellent performance. His foil, played by Tom Hardy, is a thrillingly rendered personification of avarice. Both characters are archetypes granted specific, humanity by their actors.

A Western epic that is both personal and mythic, "The Revenant" is a spectacular achievement. A soaring layering of story and storytelling, Iñárritu's film is outstanding, enthralling cinema.

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