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Dude, Leo DiCaprio is having a bad week. He gets attacked by a huge bear, smothered, left for dead, sees his son get stabbed, gets hunted by all different kinds of native and not so native Americans and French, and in general has to deal with Tom Hardy. This is a home game for Innaritu, who knows how to make life of his protagonists miserable. With the support of his fabulous DP, he brings on some absolutely magnificent imagery of the American wilderness (of the 1820, I read, even though it seems to be vague plot-wise), with all the grit and dirty hair, the snowy hills and stunning woods decorating a vast solitude where men only go to kill (each other or beasts for pelt and fur), or to get killed (by each other or furry beasts).

The plot and story do not bring much in terms of surprise, but every image, every scene appears like a set piece out of its own right. The opening attack on the trappers camp, shot in one long camera movement, Birdman style, promises this, and they stick with the promise, the long shots recurring frequently. Tom Hardy mentioned in an interview that at some point the plan was to have the whole film shot as one virtual take, but the editing is worth it, with the various groups converging across the plains and hills to an expected showdown. Di Caprio and Hardy are brilliant, I am not so convinced about Domhnall Gleeson (his career seems to be taking off with force these days…) as Captain Henry, who appears a bit younghish and cleanish compared to his men, but who rises to the challenge towards the end, when for a short while he gets a chance to involve himself in the Hardy-Di Caprio disagreement…

The often-quoted scene with the bear… man, that is some scene with some bear! A brilliant piece of film making, breathtaking in its realism and the ferocity of the encounter. The bear looks gorgeous and stunning, and Di Caprio looks… vulnerable, to say the least.

On a side note, it is one of those films where dubbing would destroy everything, with a considerable part of the atmosphere stemming from the various mumbling trapper accents. While sometimes hard to understand, it stresses the realism, the feeling of this playing  out in a different world, a world we do not want to visit…

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