I first saw The Revenant early last year during its theatrical run. After a second viewing, however, I’ve found that the film is best understood after a few watches. It may seem like this would be true of any good film, but it is particularly important for Iñárritu’s hard-hitting frontier survival revenge flick.
The Revenant is at its best when juxtaposing the sheer destructive power of nature with the resiliency of man. Intimate shots of bloody wounds are often sequenced with sweeping, contemplative views of the wilderness. The film’s signature long takes also work towards this, making the audience feel like a frontiersman stumbling through an unforgiving wasteland. I could go on for hours about how the film emphasizes the gritty nature of an isolated life, but know that Iñárritu’s directorial prowess is in full force, working to tease out visceral emotions gained only from life threatening experiences. This is where the importance of multiple viewings comes in. It takes time to digest all of the directorial moves that Iñárritu pulls off, and I didn’t respect many of them until my second watch. The piece is chock full of maneuvers that will be emulated for years to come, and it’s important that we understand all that the film achieves.