The Revenant Review

BRUTAL, AMBITIOUS,

AND CINEMATICALLY ARTSY


Mexican director Alejandro González Iñárritu emerged from Mexico City as he ventured across Europe and Africa as a young man and inspiring his imagination to become a filmmaker. After graduating and establishing a small film company (Z films), González Iñárritu got his first break as film director the 2001 film Amores perros. Following his success of that, González Iñárritu went on to direct other art-house films, including 21 Grams, Babel, and Biutiful. His 2014 feature, Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance), went on to become a “favorite” during the award season, garnishing several awards, including 4 Academy Awards (Best Picture, Best Director, Best Original Screenplay, and Best Cinematography) and 2 Golden Globe Awards (Best Screenplay and Best Actor in Musical or Comedy for Michael Keaton.) Alejandro González Iñárritu now gears up for his sixth feature film (an ambitious and personal challenge project) with the film The Revenant. Does this movie top Birdman or does get lost in its own cinematic wilderness?

THE STORY


Set in the early 1800s, Hugh Glass (Leonardo DiCaprio) is an expert tracker, with his half-Native American son Hawk (Forrest Goodluck) traveling alongside him, as the pair help guide a regiment of fur trappers in the untamed wilderness. The group is led by Andrew (Domhnall Gleeson), but it’s motivated by its outspoken member John Fitzgerald (Tom Hardy), an ambiguous individual who’s to make a profit for himself. With their group thinned out by a recent encounter of Pawnee Indians, the fur trappers troop encounter an unusual problem when Hugh is viciously attacked by a bear, brutally battered but still somehow alive from his ordeal. Placed into Fitzgerald’s care for the injured man, along with young Jim Bridger (Will Poulter), Hugh is left for dead when Fitzgerald grows impatient with his duty. Hugh, alone, gravely wounded, and filled with anger, the tracker begins his long journey across the treacherous forest terrain to exact his revenge, encountering various dilemmas and obstacles (men, creature, and natures) as he slowly rejuvenates his body and mind through keen survival skills.

THE GOOD / THE BAD


With the exception of Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance), I honestly haven’t seeing any of Alejandro González Iñárritu work (although I did hear that Babel was good). As for Birdman, I thought it was very good (a tad artistic), but it had some great performance, especially Michael Keaton and Emma Stone. I remember seeing the trailers for The Revenant and (interestingly enough) I wasn’t impressed with the movie from the trailers alone. Before its nationwide release, the 73rd Golden Globes were presented on January 10th, 2015 and The Revenant won several awards that night, including Best Director, Best actor, and Best Drama. After seeing that, I interest was more peaked and I decided to go ahead and see the movie. My conclusion… The Revenant is indeed riveting and Oscar-worthy (and definitely ambitious) with some great performances, but is more like a student film on a much grander scale.

With González Iñárritu’s artistic vision, The Revenant is (cinematically speaking) very beautiful. While the environment within the movie is harsh one, I can of felt sort awe-inspiring over the film’s scenic landscape imagery that’s very (what I call) “hauntingly beautiful”. González Iñárritu’s vision is brought to life through the camera lens from cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki. Lubzeki’s talents (along with González Iñárritu direction), presents the film with some impressive and unique shots, utilizing effect camera shots that look like it was done in one take (i.e. the camera follows alongside its various characters without an edit break / transition).

Coinciding with its art-house flair, The Revenant may be a little bit too artistic for some (including me). For the record, I do like some art-house movies, but I won’t say that I’m complete “Indie / Art-house” aficionado movie buff. Scenes with dramatic symbolism and metaphoric dreams are WAY drawing out, resulting in the movie being extremely long (roughly 2 hours and 36 minutes long). Adding to that, the movie’s pacing can have its extreme moments, with high and lows points happening sporadically. As for it film’s story, while it’s narrative interesting, it’s pretty much generic, a combination of a survival thread in man vs. nature and a “out for revenge” piece. Again, while interesting, it’s not the most strongest narration ever told. In short, González Iñárritu’s vision for the move is clear, it just seems a little too much of an art-house / college student film project that’s trying a little too hard to become an Oscar-bait film (especially with the awards season already upon us).

 

González Iñárritu doesn’t really paint a “warm and friendly” picture within The Revenant’s world as the movie is very brutal and harsh. There’s a lot of realistic of violence in the movie, including killing, raping, and several (perhaps many) disturbing images. The movie’s highlight “brutal” scene is when Hugh is attacked by a bear, a vicious and guttural scene to watch to the point of being almost “sick to your stomach”. That being said, the movie will mostly likely push a viewer’s “comfort zone” to its limits as The Revenant is not gear towards the more sensitive and “faint of heart” moviegoers.

The Revenant’s two primary characters (Hugh and Fitzgerald) are a real “Oscar-worthy” showcase for the two actors portraying them on-screen. Leonardo DiCaprio is exceptional in the movie as the determined Hugh Glass. DiCaprio, true to his character, goes above and beyond to make his character come alive for viewers, committed to grueling physical endurance Hugh faces throughout the movie. Even though his character doesn’t speak much and is mostly by myself in the movie, it’s definitely testament to DiCaprio’s theatrical talents.

While DiCaprio delivers the most physical performances in The Revenant, actor Tom Hardy gives probably the most layered character performance in the feature. Much like I said in my review for both Child 44 and Mad Max: Fury Road, Hardy has almost “perfected” the role as the tough brooding theatrical figure, especially with his grunting and mumbling frontiersman John Fitzgerald. To me, I’ve always been a big Tom Hardy fan, so (naturally) I loved his performance and his character of Fitzgerald in the movie.

In more supporting roles, Domnhall Gleeson, similar to his role in the movie Ex-Machina, adds a mixture of a good-natured leadership with woeful naiveté to his character of Captain Henry; a figure that’s not quite the natural born leader in the frontier wilderness. Interestingly (at least to me), Will Poulter has been become a standout in some of his recent films, including The Maze Runner and We’re The Millers and he does certainly do that in The Revenant as the youthful “in-over his head” Jim Bridger. Lastly, the rest of the cast, consisting of Native American and other various characters actors, adds to the authenticity to the movie’s frontier setting in a convincing and believable manner.

FINAL THOUGHTS


It’s an understatement to say that The Revenant is an Oscar-worthy film. The feature is Alejandro González Iñárritu’s most ambitious film project to date and probably the most experimental, choosing unique styles, prose, and directional innovations that would make any art-house lover weep with delight. Perhaps it’s this reason why the movie’s likeability might be split between its viewers (art-house lovers and average moviegoers) as it has a very artistic layout in its entirety, which may be off-putting for some. That aside, the film’s narrative is intriguing as well as intense and its acting in the movie is highly commendable (especially from the film’s two leads), To me, the movie was really good, but just a little too art-house artistic. Truthfully, whether calling The Revenant the “best film movie of the winter season” is debatable, it’s still worth the journey to see the movie in theaters; experiencing (cinematically) how far one man’s determination and will to survive will go to get him back to known civilization.

4.0 Out of 5 (Recommended / Iffy Choice)

Reviewed on January 12th, 2016

 

The Revenant  is Rated R for strong frontier combat and violence including gory images, a sexual assault, language and brief nudity

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