With last year's "Birdman," it became clear that director Alejandro G. Inarritu no longer just wanted to make good films, he aimed to make great ones. Every scene, every shot in that film seemed designed to surpass the conventional.

Inarritu's latest, "The Revenant", shares that sense of kicking out the jams with cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki's awe-striking panoramas of primeval wilderness, enhanced by an ethereal score by Ryuichi Sakamoto and Alva Novo. The film aims high, riffing on themes of God or the lack thereof, the rape of the New World, and the uncaring indifference to nature. But it's also just a lean, mean, revenge flick — man left for dead in the middle of nowhere returns to wreak vengeance on those who abandoned him — that's stretched out to an arduous 2½ hours. The results feel like a Werner Herzog remake of "Mad Max."

Based loosely on the life of frontiersman Hugh Glass, "The Revenant" drops us into the untamed Pacific Northwest of 1823, where pelt-seeking white men are clashing with warriors of the Arikara tribe. Glass (Leonardo DiCaprio), a taciturn mountain man accompanied by his "half-breed" son, Hawk (Forrest Goodluck), works as a scout for an ill-fated expedition led by Capt. Andrew Henry (Domhnall Gleeson), and suffers nightmares about his slain Pawnee wife.