Sean Penn has already declared it a masterpiece of “Apocalypse Now” proportions, critics have lauded it too, and starting this Friday, audiences will get to experience Alejandro G. Iñárritu’s harrowing as hell “The Revenant.” To recap, it tells the story of Hugh Glass, a fur trapper who gets left for dead, fights to survive the wintry wilds of the great North, and seeks vengeance upon the man who killed his son. It’s a tale about the empty cycle of violence, the facade of civilization, and much more. It’s also just a straight up gripping piece of cinema, and “The Revenant” has found another fan in Neil Marshall.
READ MORE: Review: Alejandro G. Iñárritu’s Fierce And Unremitting ‘The Revenant’ Starring Leonardo DiCaprio And Tom Hardy
No stranger himself to gritty violence and chilling setpieces as the director of “The Descent” and some of the most memorable episodes of “Game Of Thrones,” Marshall compares the production of Iñárritu’s film to his own “Centurion,” starring Michael Fassbender. However, he concedes “The Revenant” was executed on a grander scale, and in worse climates, in a piece penned for The Talkhouse, and says “that’s part of what gives it its power.” Indeed, Marshall has no shortage of praise for the movie. Here’s a bit of what he had to say:
Rarely has pain and suffering and the desire to survive been portrayed as well as in The Revenant. Humans are sometimes capable of such amazing feats of endurance it boggles the mind. That this is based, however loosely, on a true story gives it that extra sense of authority. Even if it isn’t an exact depiction of what really happened, and I have no way of knowing if it is or isn’t, we do know for a fact that men went out into the wilderness, endured in a way we struggle to grasp, and either returned or, in most case, didn’t. We can only take a wild guess at what might have happened to many of these poor souls..We can only take a wild guess at what might have happened to many of these poor souls. In The Revenant, Iñárritu shows us. Every rasping, shredding, horrific detail. His wilderness is a brutal, unforgiving place. Violent and painful death awaits at every turn, behind every tree, over every bluff. How Iñárritu and D.P. Emmanuel Lubezki chose to shoot the movie, with stark wide lenses, creates an almost 3D effect, plunging – or perhaps dragging you kicking and screaming – right into the middle of the action. It’s a bold and vivid choice, coupled with the use of natural light, and makes for one of the most beautiful movies I’ve ever seen.
Capturing violence on screen and making it feel immediate and shocking, without it becoming over-the-top or outlandish, is no mean feat. Believe me, I’ve tried it many times and probably blown it more often than hit the mark. It’s a very fine line and here Iñárritu nails the tone perfectly. I guess I’m the perfect audience for this kind of thing. I like my brutal reality to be brutal and realistic. Others may find it hard to stomach. The violence and pain – sold so brilliantly by the performances as much as by the way they are captured on screen – draw you in, and when other movies may choose to cut away, Iñárritu stays with it, holding on a shot or a character until they become victor or victim.
There’s also a more subtle poetic strain to The Revenant. While watching the movie, I was struck by a strange similarity to The Thin Red Line. That’s no bad thing – I love Malick’s haunting elegiac take on the hell of war. The two movies share nothing in common – although I’m sure Iñárritu has watched more than a few Malick movies in his time – except that strange sense of visual poetry. I can’t think of any better way to describe it. It’s not just a story, and it’s not lyrical like a song. It’s a poem.
The whole piece is well worth a read, particularly with Marshall’s insights as a filmmaker himself. If you can’t see “The Revenant” in limited release this weekend, it arrives wide on January 8th.