Blu-ray Review: The Revenant

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Viewed purely from a technical standpoint, The Revenant is a staggering jaw-dropper. Director Alejandro G. Iñárritu and cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki each won an Oscar for their work here, as they did for 2014's Birdman. Though they couldn't be farther apart in terms of setting and tone, The Revenant and Birdman are unusual cousins. Both films are dazzling and daring in their visual conception, but also cold and somewhat unapproachable. And while much of Birdman felt like a purpose-built comeback vehicle for Michael Keaton, The Revenant often feels like a conscious attempt to ensure Leonardo DiCaprio would finally win an Academy Award.

In that capacity, of course, it was successful. DiCaprio got his gold statue for his fully committed performance as real-life fur trapper Hugh Glass. It's not the first movie based Glass' life. Man in the Wilderness featured Richard Harris in the same role (though renamed as Zachery Bass). But the verisimilitude displayed by DiCaprio is stunning. The year is 1823. Glass is nearly killed by a voraciously protective mother grizzly bear and left for dead by his comrades after being deemed, essentially, dead weight. Over the course of 156 minutes, we're put to the test as viewers. Glass' ordeal to survive is difficult to watch—his injuries are truly brutal. By the time we reach the bitter end, it's hard to imagine the average viewer will be hankering for a repeat viewing.

But for students of film, the hyper-realistic shooting style employed by Iñárritu and Lubezki is easily worthy of close, careful study. And for students of acting, not only is DiCaprio's performance a raw-nerve marvel, so is that of Tom Hardy as Glass' adversary John Fitzgerald. Hardy was nominated for a Best Supporting Actor Academy Award and seems far more deserving than the slight performance delivered winner Mark Rylance in Bridge of Spies

revenant BD (313x380).jpg The new 20th Century Fox Blu-ray edition of The Revanant (also available as a 4K UltraHD edition) gives us a truly impressive high definition presentation. The film is so inordinately dependent on its visuals (and audio, for that matter) that nothing short of perfection will do it justice. I don't have a clue what the 4K version looks like, but if you're a standard 1080p Blu-ray person you're very unlikely to be disappointed in this transfer. This is one of those 'gold standard' BD releases.

The audio is boss as well, with a DTS-HD MA 7.1 that is every bit as subtle (when it needs to be) as it is appropriately bombastic at times. The Arikara attack sequence is a barrage-driven audio highlight. The score (by Ryuichi Sakamoto and Alva Noto) sounds fantastic as well.

If there's anything to frown about, it's the relatively sparse supplemental package. There is but one feature of any substance, but luckily it's an excellent one: the 45-minute 'making of' documentary "A World Unseen." This isn't your typical EPK-style promo piece, but rather a serious, informative look at the creation of the film. There's also a still gallery.

The Revenant is one of the grittiest stories of against-all-odds survival in recent memory (probably ever). It's kind of like watching a strongman competition. The endurance, committment, and strength of the participants is impressive. But when it's all over, there isn't much resonance.

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Chaz Lipp writes for The Morton Report.

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