The Revenant is an experience I’ve never had before. It’s totally its own beast. This is not a movie for sissies. It’s beautiful, fierce, immersive, delirious. Submerged in ice, arctic air, brutality and a kind of artful oppression. An ordeal of blood, agony, survival, snow, ice water, wounds and steaming horse guts. Great cinema is not always easy to absorb because it often challenges. It can sometimes feel hard or difficult, gnarly, awesome, almost too much…but it almost always sticks with you.”

This was my first reaction, posted 32 days ago, to Alejandro G. Inarritu‘s immersive masterpiece. The word is out on this puppy — great but no day at the beach — so I wonder how many will be going to see it today. It’s certainly no Christmas heartwarmer. But cineastes will go, of course, especially those who have as little affection for Christmas as I do. Please share your reactions and report about how crowded the room was, and what the vibe felt like on the way out.

From Alan Scherstuhl’s Village Voice review: “What’s been missing for years in Hollywood’s adventure films? Verisimilitude. Correspondent with the rise of computers and the ability to show us any place that filmmakers can imagine, has been the fall of immersiveness — that sense that the actors are in a place you can’t go yourself, rather than just standing against a digitized mock-up of one.

“The backbreaking, finger-freezing shoot for Alejandro G. Iñárritu’s frostbitten survival thriller The Revenant is as good an explanation as any for why today’s movies so often fail to get us to imagine we’re someplace we couldn’t be, the one baseline thing the studios used to get right. They’re made by actors in front of green screens for the same reason your mother prefers to get that family portrait at Sears: A flat and stiff final product is a small price for ease and control.

“What’s marvelous about The Revenant is the improbable amount of control Iñárritu and director of photography Emmanuel Lubezki seem to wield, even out in the wild. (Few scenes take place indoors.) To tell this simplest of revenge stories, set in the American Rockies in the 1820s, the production shot for months in inhospitable stretches of Canada and Argentina, relying on natural light and the cruel whims of the weather.  The camera glides and snakes through this wintry hell with all the dazzling fluidity Iñárritu displayed in Birdman. But here the dexterous long shots don’t play like they are themselves the point. Iñárritu employs them when a moment benefits from being extended, often when cutting would offer us relief.

The Revenant was famously hard to shoot, but the filmmaking has a rare and confident vigor — you are always aware you’re seeing the real world, even as Inarritu’s camera bounds through it like it’s Skyrim. Birdman was impressive, but the technique always seemed to me to limit its actors, who had to deliver their monologues while constantly accommodating that camera’s stunt work — and, denied the benefits of conventional editing, were stuck trying to power through the film’s every mood-shift and transition on their own, in something like real time. Not so, here.”