A film about fathers and sons, trappers and Indians, man and nature, this movie is also very cold. Set during winter in the unsettled western plains of 1823, cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki’s talent is on full display (he did Gravity) and the harshness and despair of those low temperatures spills off the screen; we felt the cold.
Kudos to a foreign director for capturing the brutal reality of the American frontier, and portraying all the men who cut a living out of the wild in a stark and balanced manner, including the natives. This movie is unsentimental and yet at times transcendent.
The movie runs over two and half hours but it held our attention completely. There is violence and it looks and feels real, so be forewarned.
Most modern people have forgotten just how unforgiving mother nature can be. Far from civilization, and always one wrong decision away from death, men are mostly motivated by fear which accentuates the impact of any act of kindness. Humanity is stripped bare here and it is a wonderful and terrible thing. This movie is proof that our ancestors had much stronger constitutions than us.
While DiCaprio has the most screen time, and deserves an Oscar nomination for his extremely difficult work, we also want to recognize Hardy as the villain. Screenwriters Iñárritu and Mark Smith helped, but Hardy’s performance is so brilliant that he never quite loses the audience’s sympathy; he’s simply a man who lost his way somewhere out there in the wilderness.
RECOMMENDATION: See this on the big screen where you can fully appreciate the exceptional work of so many talented people.