Leonardo DiCaprio gives "a virtuoso performance" (Peter Travers, Rolling Stone) in Oscar Winner Alejandro G. Iñárritu’s ('Birdman') cinematic masterpiece. Inspired by true events, 'The Revenant' follows the story of legendary explorer Hugh Glass (DiCaprio) on his quest for survival and justice. After a brutal bear attack, Glass is left for dead by a treacherous member of his hunting team (Tom Hardy; 'Mad Max: Fury Road'). Against extraordinary odds, and enduring unimaginable grief, Glass battles a relentless winter in uncharted terrain. This "boldly original" (Calvin Wilson, St. Louis Post-Dispatch) epic adventure captures the extraordinary power of the human spirit in an immersive and visceral experience "unlike anything you have ever seen" (Jake Hamilton, FOX-TV).
Director Alejandro Iñárritu employs the same fluid camerawork that made 2014's 'Birdman' such a technical success. His camera floats in and out of a scene like a specter. An invisible observer. It's this technique and his sense of what creates interesting cinema that gives 'The Revenant' its visual heft, visuals which are grand, sweeping, and inspiring. It's stark, and beautiful, and brutal.
'The Revenant,' which is based in part on Michael Punke's novel of the same name, tells the story of a group of mountain men trappers who become stranded in frigid, snow-covered mountains after suffering an attack by a war party of Cree Indians.
The party's navigator, Hugh Glass (Leonardo DiCaprio) has brought his son along with him, who happens to be half white man, half native. It's a situation that rankles others in the party, most notably John Fitzgerald (Tom Hardy).
The story lacks a conventional structure as it seamlessly passes from one scene to the next, dreamlike. Glass is attacked by a bear. Viciously attacked. It's a violently visceral experience. One of those moments in cinema that will leave you wondering, “How exactly did they do that?” The technical prowess exhibited in filming something like that is astounding. It's a scene that will stick with you, for better or worse.
Glass is eventually left for dead by his party. Something that fuels his survival and would-be revenge. While it's billed as a revenge flick, it's more a story of man versus nature. If it were possible for a movie to give you hypothermia this one would. It's impossible not to feel cold just watching it.
This is some of DiCaprio's best work, as he embodies the tortured character of Hugh Glass and exposes the personal demons that are slowly revealed throughout the movie. He's lost in his role. It's a transformation that is all about grit, and ice, and blood. The touching relationship between Glass and his son is infinitely moving. It's the heart of the film. The engine, so to speak. And the harmony between DiCarpio and Forrest Goodluck is palpable.
DiCaprio critics said he "just had to survive" this role. Perhaps the marketing of DiCaprio's performance soured people on it. I don't know. What I do know is that this performance isn't all about surviving. His interactions with his son are affirming and heartbreaking. Yes there's a lot of grunting, crawling around in the muck, and eating raw liver. Yet, in spite of all that there are many genuinely touching moments involved in DiCaprio's performance.
Iñárritu's 'Birdman' felt like it was showing off and too cool for the rest of us plebes. 'The Revenant' has no such pride. Its technical beauty doesn't overshadow its story, rather it adds depth to it. The way he frames actor's faces in order to accentuate microscopic expressions, or the way he takes in the natural wonder of the wilderness he's filming, making it look like some otherworldly forest. Like some alien world that city dwellers couldn't even imagine existing. His eye is keen, and his ability to capture beauty – even in brutality – is this film's defining characteristic. Add in famed cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki's magical abilities, and the result is an absolutely stunning film experience.
Here's a movie that will cling to you. A movie that will seethe in your brain long after you see it. A movie that takes simple humanistic motivations and magnifies them. A movie that treats its characters with respect, having the patience to see the story through without rushing anything. A movie that wholly respects its setting, giving ample room for the stunning but frozen locale to engulf anyone who watches it. A movie, which in short, is one of the very best of last year.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
20th Century Fox Home Entertainment brings 'The Revenant' to 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray as a two-disc combo pack with a flyer for a Digital HD Copy. At the moment, we are unable to verify if the correct size of the content, or if the disc is dual-layered or tripled-layered. The new UHD disc sits comfortably opposite a Region A locked, BD50 disc inside a black, eco-cutout case. At startup, the disc goes straight to the main menu with full-motion clips and music.
The survival drama digs itself out a shallow grave on Ultra HD Blu-ray along with it’s day-and-date Blu-ray counterpart, giving early adopters the opportunity to compare the differences between the two, and they are fascinating differences to say the least. The most apparent dissimilarity between them, and one which viewers will probably appreciate most, is that the producers color graded this presentation to take advantage of the wider color gamut. On Blu-ray, the video has a bluish, almost steely cold feel, whereas here, the picture has a greenish teal tone, which frankly, gives the photography a more natural quality while making the environment all the bleaker and chillingly cold. From what Fox has informed us of the color timing changes, the producers went back to the original source and made separate masters for both formats, and it's interesting to watch such noticeable differences. Both versions have their advantages and merits, but after comparing the two, I ultimately favor the look and feel of this version over the Blu-ray.
The film was entirely shot on a variety of digital cameras in 6K and later mastered in a 4K digital intermediate, which we can safely assume was used for making this HEVC H.265 encode in HDR10. And the results, needless to say, are absolutely phenomenal, giving early adopters what is, hands down, the very best 4K UHD presentation currently available. 'The Revenant' will serve as the new demo disc that best showcases what the format is truly capable of, especially when producers take the time to give audiences the best possible presentation. Just about every scene throughout the 156-minute runtime is pure reference quality, displaying razor-sharp details that even bests its Blu-ray counterpart. Whether in the grubby beards, the dirty matted tops of the men or in the grimy, filthy fur coats worn by various characters, every hair is extraordinarily well-defined, moving with incredible realism in the wind. Viewers can actually make out the individual flecks of snow on the ground, every fibre and pattern in the bark of trees, and the tiniest line and needle of the branches. From the facial complexions to the fabric and stitching of clothing, the picture is stunningly revealing with remarkable lifelike textures that will surprise viewers.
Presented in 2.40:1 aspect ratio, the 4K video is simply exceptional and sensational, sparkling with brilliant whites that pop off the screen with radiant luminosity, making the entire picture from start to finish lively and energetic. Contrast is pitch-perfect throughout, giving the sky a lovely, realistic glow and the fluffy clouds in the gloomy winter a great deal of pep while allowing remarkable visibility of the most minute feature and facet in the distance. Full-bodied black levels are inky and luxurious with spotless gradations between the lighter and darker portions of the frame, adding a splendid intensity to the three-dimensional image and delivering clear differences between the various shades, even during the more dark, poorly-lit sequences. Given the intentional cinematography, the palette, at first, doesn't seem like much, favoring natural earth tones and bleaker colors. Nevertheless, the UHD BD showcases an appealing array of brilliant primaries that dazzle the screen while secondary hues provide more richness to the bleak photography appropriate to the climate and the environment. The last quarter of the film is, by far, a genuine, demo-worthy highlight.
If there is one area of complaint, which in all honesty, could be considered as nitpicking, it is the few moments of CGI, which were probably done in a resolution lower than 4K. The most notable scene is the bear attack sequence where sadly, the grizzly looks somewhat cartoonish with some very mild, near negligible posterization rears its ugly head. Aside from that however, the UHD presentation of 'The Revenant' is pure reference quality, serving as the format's benchmark.
As for the audio, the award-winning film arrives on Ultra HD Blu-ray with the same DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack as its Blu-ray counterpart, and Aaron's description of the audio presentation is spot-on. So, with that in mind, I'll simply reiterate his thoughts, which I wholeheartedly agree with:
I must start off by saying it's slightly disappointing that the Dolby Atmos track 'The Revenant' was released with in theaters did not make it to the disc. However, this is a very capable and extremely competent DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 mix. One of my favorites actually.
There's a small moment in this movie that really highlights the agility of its sound design. Fitzgerald and Jim Bridger have made it back to the fort and are ready to receive payment for their duties. Captain Henry gets up from his desk, but the camera stays on Fitzgerald and Bridger. Henry walks out of frame and up some stairs on the left side of the frame. The creaking boards of the cabin follow him to the side channel. He walks up the stairs that lead to behind the viewer, and the creaking and heavy footsteps seamlessly transfer to the left surround speaker. Then to the right as he opens the safe and retrieves the money. Then back to the left, left-side, and back down the stairs. It's a great scene that offers up the pinpoint accuracy of this movie's surround sound capabilities.
The same enveloping feeling can be heard when Iñárritu points the camera skyward, taking in the tops of swaying trees. The natural creaking and groaning of the forest instantly surrounds you. It's quite amazing.
This movie offers up countless pans where the camera is steadily moving as characters are talking. This means that as the camera moves character voices are flawlessly transfer from one channel to another depending on where they are in relation to where the frame is currently. So someone's voice can start in the front channel and gradually move all the way to a rear channel as the camera turns and floats somewhere else.
The low-end also offers many sonic delights. The score has some wonderful moments of deep, thrumming bass. The bear attack is accompanied by a wonderful array of low-end frequencies. Dialogue is always clear, even when whispered (and there's a lot of whispering). I didn't hear anything wrong with this audio mix. Its accuracy, fidelity, and pin-point directionality are demo-worthy.
'The Revenant' was one of my favorite films of last year. Iñárritu tends to rub some people the wrong way. He can be a bit of a blowhard. However, his acumen as a filmmaker is quite extraordinary. 'The Revenant' is a perfect platform for his talents.
Added to that, the Ultra HD Blu-ray disc arrives with a reference quality 4K video presentation with the sort of pop we'd expect from the new format, making it a highly impressive and benchmark UHD release. Plus, the movie also comes with a highly-enjoyable, demo-worthy DTS-HD MA soundtrack.
Portions of this review also appear in our coverage of Dunkirk on Blu-ray. This post features unique Vital Disc Stats, Video, and Final Thoughts sections.