Beauty, brutality, and bears. Oh my.
The Revenant is Alejandro González Iñárritu next film after his Oscar winning Birdman last year, and just like Birdman this is an impressive film that you won’t likely forget. Starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Tom Hardy, The Revenant tells the somewhat “true” story of frontiersman Hugh Glass, who was attacked by a bear on an expedition and left for dead by his companions. Seeking revenge, Glass sets out on an almost impossible mission to brave the wilderness and make his way back to civilization.
The first thing you’ll notice about The Revenant is that it is stunning to look at. Shot mostly outside and only using natural lighting, this type of risky filmmaking definitely paid off. Just about every frame is pristine and beautiful, even when it’s focused on the dirt and grime the characters trudge through. The set pieces are riveting and brutal. The camerawork is so tight and so close to the action, you’ll feel a part of the environment as though you were standing amongst the characters. Iñárritu’s talents as a director are all on display here, and his work with cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki will probably earn them both Oscars in 2016.
The acting in The Revenant is also some of the best you’ll see all year. Leonardo DiCaprio is able to express a broad range of emotion using only his physical assets, as his character hardly speaks for most of the film. Tom Hardy is the real scene stealer though, as he plays DiCaprio’s counterpart. A selfish trapper that doesn’t like to mince words. Will Poulter is surprisingly fantastic here and is definitely an actor to look out for in the future, and Domhnall Gleeson is still kicking ass this year and had me sold on his character by the end of this one. Expect Leo to be the front runner for this years Best Actor award, and don’t be surprised if Tom Hardy scores a Best Supporting Actor nomination as well.
While Iñárritu is an amazing director of immense talent, he is sometimes overindulgent on prioritizing themes over actual storytelling, which is apparent here. There is a subplot that is almost entirely unimportant to the main story and one that I found rather uninteresting. Normally I don’t mind thematic musings or unneeded subplots if they’re done well, but The Revenant just seems to last forever and could really use some trimming. The middle section just drags on (literally) endlessly and makes it feel like you’ve been sitting there for five hours. You could cut down the film to two hours and it would be an immensely more enjoyable watch, but it is bogged down by scenes of mysticism and indigenous people that never seemed to come together to add much substance to the story or its characters. Luckily towards the end, everything is reeled back to a tighter focus and all that buildup finally pays off in a great finale.
The Revenant is brilliant, gorgeous, frustrating, tense, violent, long, and an experience you won’t get watching any other movie in 2015. If you like film, and can appreciate high quality filmmaking, then you should probably give this one a shot. For the casual fans, see it at your own discretion.
Overall Score: 4.5/5 stars
If you want to listen to Leo make sex noises for 2 hours, then baby do I have the movie for you.