Saturday, January 9, 2016

The Revenant - Movie Review: Baby It's Cold Outside (Not if You Have a Horse)

Well for the people who say the best way to survive a bear attack is to play dead.  That is probably way easier said than done.
The Revenant, starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Tom Hardy, Domhnall Gleeson, and Will Poulter. Directed by Alejandro G. Iñárritu. DiCaprio’s character is a scout named Hugh Glass, who is attacked and mauled by a bear. The bear attack is intense and vicious. It’s an impressive sequence and even more so since the bear was completely CG. He certainly didn’t seem fake on the screen. After the bear attack Glass is betrayed and left for dead by Tom Hardy’s character John Fitzgerald. The rest of the movie is Glass trying to catch Fitzgerald and have his vengeance.
This movie is probably the definition of Oscar Bait. When the performances, story, and direction are all excellent then that title shouldn’t be a negative. DiCaprio again is deserving of an Oscar and I’m sure he will at least get another nomination. Will he finally get the golden statue for this performance? I wouldn’t be surprised if he did. Is this his best? I think he might have done a better job in Wolf of Wall Street, but not by much. He loses himself in this role and there is a point where you no longer see Leo and only the character portrayed on the screen. Which is the mark of a great actor. Tom Hardy should also get a supporting actor nod, even though his accent and dialogue are probably a deterrent for some in the film. I thought they added to the overall performance, but if you can’t understand what someone is saying I can see why it is also a negative. You never sympathize with Hardy’s character, but you also can understand his motivations.
An actor who hasn’t been talked about much is this movie is Will Poulter. He plays another young trapper, and I was really impressed with his handling of the role. He mainly played opposite of Hardy and held the screen well with the other actor. The terror, indecision, and struggle he portrayed with his character was fantastic. DiCaprio and Hardy are getting a ton of love for their performances, and I wanted to bring up Poulter as well. Domhnall Gleeson is also great in his role, but to tie this back to Star Wars, because, well look behind me. This performances made me wish his character was written differently in The Force Awakens. Gleeson can play complex and nuanced characters, even in smaller roles, like this one. I wish he was allowed too in Star Wars. Inarritu gave him a bit more to work with in this role.
Inarritu is truly an artist with his direction. Lubezki as cinematographer captures countless breathtaking images. If you enjoyed how Birdman was shot, then parts of this movie are done in the same fashion. The opening battle against Indians is shot in what seems like one long take. It is frenetic, but in a controlled way. It focuses on one person and you follow them until someone else comes in frame and then the camera will follow their action. The movie was also shot in sequence and only with natural light. Which forced the filmmakers into very limited windows during the day to capture the scenes. Did the movie have to be done in this way? No, but it made for something breathtaking to look at.
The Revenant was made to push the technology of digital filmmaking in an interesting way. Lubezki did plan to try and shoot on film at first, but needed a digital camera for dawn and dusk shots. Inarritu had a clear vision of how he wanted this film to look and feel. He draws you into the world with the stunning visuals and pulls you along with the interesting story.  You feel like you are in the frames with the characters. I felt cold and shivered when DiCaprio submerged himself in an icy river. Contrast this film with another movie recently that pushed boundaries in another way.
The Hateful Eight, Tarantino’s movie, is shot only on film and is a love letter to the past. It also looks spectacular. The Hateful Eight is a fantastic film with a compelling story. Inarritu pushed the boundaries of current technology and braved insane conditions to capture and equally captivating story in the Revenant. The environment is a character in each film and is used in different ways to allow the story to develop.  Is there a right or wrong way in either approach to filmmaking? Nope not from my perspective, because I’m glad I live in a world where both visionaries can create works with the tools they see fit to use.
The Revenant is still a movie not for everyone. It takes a very artistic approach and if you don’t like a slower paced movie then I would probably stay away. I thought the pacing was perfect, and wasn’t bored at any moment through the movie. The person sitting next to me in the theater probably would disagree, because he gave a huge sigh every ten to fifteen minutes once the movie got past the first hour. The film also has some lucid dream sequences that could turn some off. I enjoyed them, because as sick and injured as Hugh Glass was throughout the course of the story he would have some crazy fever dreams. I could also nitpick about some of the choices the character’s make when consuming food, but they didn’t take away from the story for me.
This is another film made to be seen on the big screen. If you enjoy a slower pace burn of a movie which has a more artistic feel to it, then this is well Worth Seeing. Even though the movie is a slow burn, when the action hits it is brutal, intense, and really grips you. I will probably end up buying this movie on blu-ray. It’s not one I can pop in and re-watch a bunch of times, but it is something I can watch again and share with my son’s when they get older. 


  1. One of the best looking movies of the year for sure!

    This is a movie, I don't think I can watch until I see it on a projector home screen with great surround. Watching on a small tv or ipad won't do it justice.

    I still feel like a good 15 - 20 minutes should be cut to make the film a bit tighter, but that is just me.

    1. I can understand that. There was a bunch of scenery shots, looked great, but I can see some being taken out. It will probably lose something on a television, projector would be the way to go if you can do it :-).


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