Filmmaker Alejandro González Iñárritu has, of late, been collecting awards left and right for his work on the showbiz-skewing comedy/drama Birdman... and there's a real chance he'll be earning similar acclaim come this time next year. That's because the writer/director is also busily shooting his next project, a gritty western/revenge drama called The Revenant - a film that, like everything Iñárritu does, deserves to be labeled "ambitious."
The Revenant is based on the 2003 book by Michael Punke and was inspired by the true story of the 19th century frontiersman Hugh Glass (whose story has inspired other literary/cinematic works in the past). Iñárritu's movie is headlined by Leonardo DiCaprio as Mr. Glass, a fur trapper who gets mauled by a bear in unsettled American terrain, only to then wind up being robbed and left for dead by his companions. However, Glass survives all this and sets out to seek vengeance against the men who betrayed him, thereafter.
Birdman is unusual in that Iñárritu and cinematographer Emanuel Lubezki (Gravity) filmed the movie in such a fashion that (with a little editing for assistance) it appears to have been shot as one single, uninterrupted take. This approach is, in essence, a means of blending the style of cinema and theater, appropriately enough, for a story about a Hollywood (ex-)star trying to put on a hit play - a narrative that, on paper, doesn't read as being a huge challenge to create onscreen.
Similarly, The Revenant sounds like a pretty straight-forward revenge tale with a historical setting... only, Iñárritu and Lubezki are shooting the movie with nothing but natural light, in remote and undeveloped regions of Calgary where they can only film for a few hours a day - hence, production has been extended to April. Iñárritu, when he spoke to EW, admitted that this shooting technique is one that could just as easily blow up in his face as it could work exceptionally well.
“It’s a very experimental thing that we’re doing here…I’m now addicted to doing things that can fail horribly or maybe that can give us a surprise. We are all into it.”
You can check out an especially grizzled-looking DiCaprio in The Revenant (as well as the actor and Iñárritu on set), below.
The filmmaking style on The Revenant does make sense, with regard to the story being told... but, as indicated before, if it's not done just right, the movie could just as well turn out to be a murky and unpleasant-looking mess, rather than a visually-lush piece of cinema verité. Similarly, the adapted screenplay by Iñárritu and Mark L. Smith (The Hole) could easily come off as a thinly-sketched drama about savage human behavior in the untamed American west, as it could play out as a rich character study.
... But, at this stage in his career, Iñárritu's very much earned the benefit of the doubt. And, with a cast that includes Domhnall Gleeson (Unbroken), Will Poulter (The Maze Runner), and Tom Hardy (who may've passed on Suicide Squad because this film is taking longer than expected to finish shooting), The Revenant now sounds all the more interesting for it.
The Revenant will begin an awards season-qualifying limited theatrical release on December 25th, 2015; it expands nation-wide in the U.S. on January 8th, 2016.