THE REVENANT [2015]

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Directed by: Alejandro González Iñárritu

Written by: Mark L. Smith (screenplay), Alejandro González Iñárritu (screenplay), Michael Punke (novel)

Starring: Leonardo DiCaprio, Tom Hardy, Domhnall Gleeson, Will Poulter


I loved Birdman when I first saw it, but the more times I watched it, the more it irritated me; unlike most greats, those films I can watch over and over again. The camera-work was undeniably amazing, and I still love that soundtrack… probably because I am a drummer. But the rest of the movie feels soulless, and more than a little full of itself, despite being well-acted and well-made front to back. It was however an unconventional film to win the Oscar and that was enough to interest me in Iñárritu‘s next movie. It seems I wasn’t the only one, as while Birdman only played at a single art-house cinema early last year, The Revenant is playing everywhere in my city. Oscars open doors, there is no doubt about that. 135 million dollar doors to be precise.

At first this massive budget seems worth it, as from the very start it looks amazing, from the swooping camera-work to the long, snow-crusted beards most of the characters wear. When it was over though, I found that it was over-long and relentlessly pessimistic. The film is three hours long but the story is simply about revenge and survival. There are two subplots floating around that could have been edited out altogether, as they don’t add anything. For example, Glass (DiCaprio) has a son with him before the bear attack occurs, and he sees his dead wife in a few hallucinations. I suppose this was added to lend some dramatic heft to the simplistic plot, as his son is half Native-American. Exploring why his son is half Native-American could have created some much needed emotion to the film. But we don’t find out anything about his wife or his son, so while the movie tries to milk some emotional drama in this vein, it fails, leaving the film emotionally bleak. The carnage we witness seems for the most part pointless then, no matter how realistic it all looks. There is another subplot about a Native American tribe who are looking for a stolen daughter that feels disconnected from the rest of the story.

The passage of time within the movie is also a problem. Leo starts off with a leg twisted around the wrong way, barely alive. Yet a couple of hours later, he is running and dodging as if he were Superman. This really ripped me out of the experience.

Contrary to my problems with the story, the score is appropriately atmospheric (especially the moments where the score stops and all you can hear is nature or silence), while the camera-work is beautiful to watch, with the few action set-pieces being especially well done. It isn’t edited to look like one long take again, though there are many long, uninterrupted shots. There are also many jaw-dropping landscapes that need to be seen on the big screen. Going into the final hour, the extreme facial close-ups do get a bit repetitive. But there is no denying its overall beauty; I’m sure Emmanuel Lubezki will grab another Oscar for his work. The decision to use only natural light was a good one too, as this paints the forests and landscapes with a gritty and dark tone.

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There is also no denying the incredible acting from everyone involved. I am not a big fan of Domhnall Gleeson but he is solid here as Captain of the fur trapping company Hugh Glass is a part of. Tom Hardy, playing the villain Fitzgerald, has a very heavy accent, but the way he uses this accent to deliver his lines adds to the personality of his character, creating a man that is easy to dislike. Is there anything that Tom Hardy can’t do extremely well?!

DiCaprio on the other hand barely says a word, yet says so much with his face. Arguably though, Hardy’s performance was better, as Leo most certainly overacts on more than a few occasions (see below).

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I am sure The Internet will explode if Leo doesn’t get an Oscar. And despite not liking this film as much as some others, I’m inclined to agree. Not because the role was so demanding that he had to eat raw bison liver in sub-zero temperature conditions. He deserves it because rarely does a big budget film have so much silence, and these moments allow Leo to act without words, at times pulling himself along the ground without the use of his legs. One could say he was just grunting while wearing a desperate look on his face; a much more boring version of the classic scene from The Wolf on Wall Street where he can’t walk after getting messed up on quaaludes. I suppose I’m on the fence about that one, as like I said, he does overact at times.


The Revenant deserves to be seen on the big screen, as its visual brilliance is without question, and the score to match it sounds sublime. But take your patience with you; for a film of over three hours, it doesn’t have much meat on its bones. It is too simple – which is a rare criticism for me. It is an incredible tale of survival and a willingness to cling onto life, no doubt about it. But there isn’t much more than that. four beer(1)The expensive and tough shooting conditions certainly add a layer of realism that I have never seen before, but unfortunately there isn’t much of a story to go with it. This is a love/hate affair for me, no doubt about it; it is technically perfect, but emotionally flat.

Two beers short of a sixer.

4/6

28 Comments on “THE REVENANT [2015]

  1. I’ll take four beers out of a sixer. Sounds pretty yummy! 😉

    You know what man, the issues you have with it are the exact same concerns I have going into it. I’m hoping to really get a kick out of this harsh-looking film, but yeah…..WHY does this have to be stretched to 3 hours?! Good grief, that’s the length of a basketball game. Anyway, two things I expect out of it: for Leo to once more blow me away, and secondly, for Lubezki’s bold decision to shoot in all natural light. I won’t lie, I’m very excited to see how it all goes down. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • It looks ridiculously good man, a movie you need to see on a big screen to appreciate it properly. I was slightly disappointed overall, I thought it would have more depth, but the visuals are enough to warrant a ticket alone. It looks like nothing I have ever seen.. It truly raises the bar for realistic filmmaking

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I think this looks great but I doubt I’ll get to see it in the theaters : (

    Hope you’re doing all right!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Ah that’s a bummer man. It’d be interesting to hear how this goes down on DVD, cos without the amazing visuals this movie doesn’t have much going for it apart from some pretty cool action set-pieces. The bear attack is brutal as well.

      I’m doing pretty good mate, thanks for asking 🙂 How’s things with you?

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Interesting read Jordan, and belated happy new year. I’m excited to see this but have reservations, and your criticism at the end about it being technically perfect but emotionally flat seems to be levelled at Iñárritu more and more these days. I’ve really enjoyed all of his films to date, so I’m expecting to like this one too…like Tom I’ll take a four out of six!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Happy belated new year to you mate 🙂

      It is an amazing experience, you’ll be blown away by the visuals.. I meant, I thought Sicario looked amazing… now it just seems a bit dull compared to how incredible this thing looks. The use of natural light really pays off. The bear attack is great too, I hope you enjoy it mate!

      Like

  4. Hey Jordan! I’ve been saying to people I don’t think I could handle the brutality of this film. Yes I know I’m missing out but I should know my limit and so I think I’ll just see this later on rental. I’m just about to post my pal Ted’s review of this, hope you’ll stop by and check out his take on it.

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    • I didn’t think it was that brutal really, I mean it is nothing compared to Saving private Ryan. I think some people are overselling that aspect of it. I’d be interested to hear what it is like for the first time on a small screen, cos IMO this film doesn’t have much going for it other than the gorgeous visuals

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      • Well I haven’t seen SPR either as I heard it was super gory. As far as overselling, I guess it depends. I’m VERY squeamish so I tend to be careful to go see something when more than a few people have said it’s very gory. Btw, interesting that you don’t seem to be as in love w/ this film as others, Jordan, we’ll see how I feel about it once I’ve seen it.

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  5. Great review Jordan. It’s out next week here in the UK — huge fan of DiCaprio so I’m looking forward to this. Funnily enough, I had a similar experience with Birdman. Thought it was outstanding first time around, then felt it wasn’t quite as piercing or textured upon second viewing (I still enjoyed it a lot though).

    Like

    • I can’t see myself watching this again at all. Three hours and the story has nothing going on. It looks pretty yeah but I think that the beauty is overshadowing the almost complete lack of emotion for the entire three hours.

      I hope you enjoy it more than me mate!

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Well defended review. I agree on a lot of what you say but still hold the film a bit higher in regard. I did not like hardy in the role and while the story had some weak areas, I applaud the outstanding effort and vision. Well done, Jordan!

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    • I have a suspicion that this will lose a lot of its impact on the small screen. The whole story feels empty, carnage just for the sake of it. That they added a son shows that they realised they had a super thin plot. The hallucinations of his dead wife were reeeeally poorly done.

      Seems I’m the only one who didn’t love this movie. It certainly won’t be making any top ten lists for me

      Liked by 1 person

  7. I get where you’re coming from but I thought the film didnt need an emotional center because it was about the stark reality of being mauled by a bear and left for dead in the wilderness. I thought the film got all the emotion it needed from those Terrence Malick-esque dream sequences. But I was just floored by the visual beauty and lyrical quality of the film and whats not to like about DiCaprio’s superb performance

    Like

    • There is no denying the beauty of it that’s for sure. But those hallucinations and dream sequences etc didn’t draw me in, and it wasn’t just a lack of emotion as it was a lack of story for me. That’s just how I saw it though, I’ve only read one review that had similar opinions.

      Like

      • Nothing wrong with having a different opinion 😀 I perfectly respect your reservations about the film, but on a personal level, I thought the dream sequences really brought a level of gravity to Glass’s character and the sequences themselves weren’t overdone to the point where they get indulgent like they often are in Terrence Malick’s films

        Like

      • I’m with you there, they didn’t go over the top a la Malick. On one hand I’m glad everyone has enjoyed this so much, but on the other it is annoying because it feels like I have missed out!

        Liked by 1 person

  8. This was 3 hours long. It never felt like that to me. It felt more like 97 minutes. The subplot with the people searching for their daughter does play a crucial role at the very end, at least I thought. The camera work was amazing but yeah this will loose it’s appeal on a smaller screen

    Like

    • That’s great that you enjoyed it so much mate! I seem to pretty alone on this one, but that’s what makes writing about and discussing movies fun

      I didn’t spot what you say about the native Americans and the daughter, how do you mean exactly?

      The ending of this didn’t gel with me too, I didn’t put it in the review but the last words he says at the end seem to completely contradict what transpires. But that’s just how I see it. 🙂

      Its great to hear different viewpoints on movies, that’s one of the main reasons why I love blogging. Thanks for reading mate

      Like

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