TL;DR – Bleak but Beautiful, Though provoking but brutal, Heart-wrenching but uplifting, One of the most visually stunning films I have ever seen but one I don’t think I ever want to watch again
Score – 4 out of 5 stars
Wow, the first movie for the year and boy is this an amazing work of art, this is a movie that is at times hauntingly beautiful and at other times horrifically brutal, this is not a film to take your children to, there are vivid violence and some very disturbing scenes. The Revenant is fictional retelling of the real life story of Hugh Glass (Leonardo DiCaprio) who was left for dead after being mauled by a grizzly bear and has to try and survive in the barren frozen wastelands of (the now) The United States of America fighting his own body, the elements, and the indigenous population.
The first thing I have to talk about is the cinematography, for it is some of the best I have ever seen. First, the use of the natural environment over constructed sets makes sure that everything has an authentic texture about it. That is not a CGIed mountain in the background it is real, that is ice water, the actors are really walking through a flooded forest, every frame really is a picture. The next key reason is the use of long single shots, instead of constantly cutting all the time there are these beautifully constructed long shots, which must have been a nightmare to film. Not only do these show that you can keep the audience’s attention without cutting every two seconds, but they really ratcheted up the tension in the film. Finally, the camera gets right up and close to the action, so much so, there are times when the actors clearly knock the camera or it is so close that the actor’s breath fogs up the lens. You would think this would have the effect of having the film feel tacky, amateurish, but no, it drags you in further, you start to feel less like the audience and more like a voyeur spying on someone’s most private pain, it makes you more emotionally invested than you would have. The Grey attempted something like this, but I think The Revenant really pulls it off.
The next key thing is the acting, everyone brings their A-Game to this film, mostly because given it was filmed in location, you don’t need to act cold in the middle of the Canadian winter. Tom Hardy (John Fitzgerald) is one of my favourite actors and he plays the antagonist so well that you understand his motivations, and in some cases can sympathise with them. Domhnall Gleeson (Captain Andrew Henry) is one of those actors that you should look out for because he is incredibly talented and is really starting to but his mark on the films he is in and here he really depicts someone who got a job through his position, not through merit, but is still trying his best. The care and attention put into the casting and depiction of the Arikara Indigenous people give this film a feeling of authenticity that so many other “western” films lacks. Finally Leo, a large chunk of the film is just him interacting with the world and he can’t really talk due to the gash across his neck if you had cast this role incorrectly the whole film would have been a flop, but damn does he pull it off. You feel his pain, you feel his anguish, you fell his hatred, and you feel his revenge. Also at this point, I fell that if he does not win the Oscar for this role, it will not only be considered The mistake of the award season, also I am concerned what he would do next because he threw everything of himself into this film.
The action is great, it is also vivid and in your face, so much so I and the many around me audibly gasped at times. There will be gore in this film, there will be people getting shot with arrows and there will be people screaming in pain. The score is intriguingly minimalistic, besides some occasional strings and piano, it is almost barren, with more natural sounds, and percussion filling the void. I am not usually a fan of this kind of technique, but it really works in this film.
There are a couple of issues with the film, the first is the pacing. The second act drags on a bit too long, but I am not sure if that is due to pacing problems in the film or simply from the emotional fatigue of the audience. Also, while it was really good to see this film be pretty much entirely shot on location and using practical effects when it the film does use CGI (in two sequences involving animals) it sticks out like a sore thumb and actually pulls you out of the film a little bit.
This is an amazing film, a film I highly recommend, but it is not a film I would want to see again because it was emotional draining but I don’t regret for a moment going to see it and watching true artistry at work.
By Brian MacNamara: You can follow Brian on Twitter Here, when he’s not chatting about Movies and TV, he’ll be talking about International Relations, or the Solar System.
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Directed by – Alejandro G. Iñárritu
Screenplay by – Mark L. Smith & Alejandro G. Iñárritu
Based on – The Revenant by Michael Punke (in part)
Starring – Leonardo DiCaprio, Tom Hardy, Domhnall Gleeson, Will Poulter & Forrest Goodluck
Rating – Australia: MA15+; Canada: 14A; Ireland: 16; NZ: R16; UK: 15; USA: R