Monday, December 28, 2015

[Review] The Revenant

Director Alejandro G. Inarritu follows up last year's Best Picture winner Birdman with The Revenant, which stars Leonardo DiCaprio and Tom Hardy. Some people going into this film for the big names alone might be in for an unpleasant surprise by the stranger and more experimental aspects, as well as the near 3-hour runtime and overall gruesomeness of the story. (I'm anticipating seeing a lot of complaints on Twitter from casual moviegoers.)

Inspired by true events of the West in the early 1800s, The Revenant tells the crazy revenge tale of frontiersman Hugh Glass (played by DiCaprio). After one hell of a battle scene with no shortage of sharp objects and shotgun bullets jamming into organs and bones, along with a disturbing bear attack (which will likely be popular conversation piece), Glass is left for dead by a thief named John Fitzgerald (Hardy). From there, Glass attempts to survive his wounds, endure the unforgiving terrain, and track down the man he hates.

While The Revenant isn't presented in one-shot form like Birdman, the camera still doesn't take a break here. With its constant movement and combination of close-ups and wide scopes, it makes for a fittingly immersive experience in a harshly visceral setting. And as stark as things are, you'll be taken aback by the sheer beauty of the frames, thanks to some stunning use of depth, sunlight, and the provocative images of the wilderness itself. However, despite how well-shot this is, the story eventually freezes into a lull near it's halfway mark, making the film an exhausting viewing (and not just because of what the protagonist goes through). Like Tarantino's The Hateful Eight, you can add this to the list of this year's films that could've been better if they didn't drag so much.

Tom Hardy continues his run as a trekker across the elements, even though his character here is less to root for as opposed to Mad: Max Fury Road, but he's still really grizzly nonetheless. Domhnall Gleeson (who wasn't shown much in the previews) shows up as a fur trader . He's also having a pretty big year (Ex Machina, Brooklyn, and a little movie called Star Wars: The Force Awakens.)

As reports suggested, it definitely looks like this was not a fun (to say the least) filming experience for DiCaprio. "I can name 30 or 40 sequences that were some of the most difficult things I've ever had to do...Whether it's going in and out of frozen rivers, or sleeping in animal carcasses, or what I ate on set. I was enduring freezing cold and possible hypothermia constantly." Now, "being hell to shoot" doesn't always equal an Oscar win, but it will most likely help his case here, especially (and most importantly) because the impressiveness of it translates to the screen. His character is put into situations where he's expressing his rage and fury, even though his tattered body doesn't allow him to do so. And it just looks painful. But as difficult as it is to watch, the guy commands attention.

Inarritu's filmmaking once again is something to behold and it not only allows for great performances, but it showcases them. While Eddie Redmayne was fantastic in last year's Stephen Hawking biopic The Theory of Everything, I thought Michael Keaton in Birdman had the slight edge. The way things stand now, it looks like DiCaprio is in favor to solidify his first Oscar--that is unless Eddie Redmayne (The Danish Girl) snatches another one away.

The Revenant is a visual marvel, a procedure in technical brilliance, and a source of great performances. But somehow, it feels hollow in the end.


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