Alejandro González Iñárritu who directed last year’s Best Picture winner ‘Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)’ has returned with his next film ‘The Revenant’. The films couldn’t be further apart in nature. I remember saying when I reviewed the former film that it wasn’t going to be for everyone, and despite the films being worlds apart, this fact remains the same. ‘The Revenant’ is a beautiful film to look at, but it’s a tough film to sit through. There’s a pretty amazing true story being told here, but it’s being told in such a slow, drawn out way that it lost a lot of impact for me.
Inspired by true events & based on the novel of the same name, the story of The Revenant takes place in the 1820s and follows Hugh Glass, a frontiersman who, during the expedition of the uncharted American wilderness, gets viciously attacked by a bear and is left for dead by members of his hunting team. In an effort to survive, Glass endures unimaginable grief & extreme winter conditions in order to bring vengeance upon those who betrayed him.
The Revenant features an excellent cast in Leonardo DiCaprio, Tom Hardy, Domhnall Gleeson & Will Poulter, and this is one aspect that plays to Iñárritu’s strengths as a filmmaker. DiCaprio delivers a good performance that makes the viewers feel every bit of agony his character undergoes. Hardy is no slouch in his supporting role and plays the antagonist with great restraint, while Gleeson & others do well with what they are given.
The buzz around town is that the time may finally have come for Leonardo DiCaprio to get an Oscar for his performance in ‘The Revenant’. Personally I would be disappointed if this turns out to be the case. Don’t get me wrong he delivers a very fine performance here. But of all the charismatic, layered performances he’s given over the years, this was not his best work. People will justify it saying the filming conditions were immensely tough and that he put in the hard yards for the role, however I believe any actor given this role could have come up with a very similar performance. There was nothing DiCaprio did here that no one else in the business could have pulled off. That hasn’t been the case in other roles he’s nailed.
The cinematography is what sells this picture. I swear to you that this film houses some of the best camera work I have seen in a movie, not to mention the difficulty of shooting in natural light on top of the tricky and great shots that they pulled off. The first battle scene between the Arikara and the fur trappers was filled with many great shots, not just long shots but very maneuverable shots. Plus, the bear attack scene is monumental and memorable, I do not remember having seen a bear attack described so well in all its wildness in any film or documentary. It makes you wonder how the hell they did that. If this film doesn’t take the Oscar home for best cinematography I would be very surprised. Hats off to Emmanuel ‘Chivo’ Lubezki for he truly is a master of his craft and is on the top of his game in this one.
But be prepared to be very patient going in to ‘The Revenant’. It’s a long film with not a lot happening for the most part of it and that’s my main problem with the movie. The flaw for me was how much time was given to each aspect of the story. The movie runs a 156 minute runtime and the survival aspect takes up 95% of it, which granted was a great way to show just how harrowing of an experience it would truly have been and the determination it would have taken, the “revenge” aspect is just rushed in at the end almost as an afterthought, and those flashback scenes don’t add much to the story and should’ve been left out, they were way over-pretentious. Coming to a conclusion, while I appreciate the ordeal the real man had to endure, the movie simply lacked character.
It truly is a shame however that the score is unable to enter into the Oscar race, the way it pairs with the visuals work quite well. When it comes to the more intense scenes a very heart jolting percussive tune joins with it, in the smaller more beautiful moments of scenery are accompanied with a more orchestral type music. The music works quite well and I wished it could of at least of gotten a Oscar nod.
The Revenant gets a 7.5/10.