The Revenant

 
Director: Alejandro González Iñárritu.
Screenplay: Alejandro González Iñárritu, Mark L. Smith.
Starring: Leonardo DiCaprio, Tom Hardy, Domhnall Gleeson, Will Poulter, Forrest Goodluck, Joshua Burge, Paul Anderson, Kristoffer Joner, Duane Howard, Melaw Nakehk’o, Arthur Redcloud, Fabrice Adde, Christopher Rosamond, Lukas Haas.

“I ain’t afraid to die anymore. I’d done it already”

Director Alejandro González Iñárritu’s track record speaks for itself in terms of his sombre and unrelenting material. Working alongside screenwriter Guillermo Arriaga, his loose trilogy of films Amores Perros, 21 Grams and Babel all dealt with tragedy and issues of loss and grief and his 2010 film Biutiful confirmed that grim material was his forte. However, his biggest success came last year with Birdman where he was awarded the Oscar for best director. Birdman wasn’t just successful in terms of awards, though, it proved that Iñárritu had the ability to craft something of a lighter nature. But now that he’s got that out the way, he’s back to delivering another punishing drama.
Inspired by the life of frontiersman Hugh Glass (Leonardo DiCaprio) who, while fur trading on an expedition through the American wilderness in the 1820’s, is mauled by a bear and left for dead by his own team. In order to survive, Glass must overcome insurmountable odds in order to take revenge on John Fitzgerald (Tom Hardy) – the man responsible for abandoning him and killing his son.As The Revenant opens I was reminded of a particular filmmaker from the offset. It has a quiet and calming influence in the opening scenes and employs a connection with nature that Terrence Malick is renowned for. This is short lived, however, as what follows it’s calm and meticulous opening is a harrowing battle sequence that’s reminiscent of another director; Steven Spielberg and his chaotic, D-Day landings in Saving Private Ryan. Not since that film has battle been so expertly and brutally depicted onscreen. It’s at this point, early on in the film, that you realise this is going to be a completely immersive experience. Some films often claim the platitude of “an assault to the senses” but Iñárritu’s work here is one of the few that can authentically be claimed as such. We follow our protaganist, Hugh Glass, through a series of life-threatening challenges; his ravenous hunger; the cold chilling him to the bone, or the savage altercations with man (and beast), all the while, experiencing his overriding will to survive. Of course, a lot of this realism comes from how convincing DiCaprio is. Rarely has he been as committed to a role as he is here. It’s an astonishingly physical performance as he doesn’t say a word for long periods of time yet still manages to command your attention throughout some visceral and seriously gruelling ordeals – and his commitment looks highly likely to end his Oscar drought this year.As good as he is, though, Hardy is no less his equal. He brings that dead-eyed stare and ferocity that only Hardy knows how. His John Fitzgerald is a frightening and detestable human being but, under the surface, Hardy hints at something more and manages to turn a fairly straight forward villain into an intriguing, three-dimensional character. He, like DiCaprio, has rightly been recognised with an Oscar nomination and it’s a much deserved recognition of one of the most consistently excellent actors from recent years.What impresses most, however, is not the command of Iñárritu, the two fabulous leads or even the fine supporting work by Domhnall Gleeson and Will Poulter but Emmanuel Lubezki’s sublime camerawork. That’s the biggest draw here. His use of steadicam and long tracking shots amidst the battle scenes are absolutely captivating and his capturing of the sumptuous landscapes are truly breathtaking. The things this man do with a camera are simply unbelievable and with every frame, he crafts an absolute work of art. As if that’s not enough, he does it all with the use of natural light. This type of imagery doesn’t come easy, though. The technical difficulties involved led to a spiralling budget and the film’s shoot going over schedule but when the results look this good, it’s worth it. Since we’re talking awards, Lubezki throughly deserves to make it three Oscars in row after his previously outstanding work on Gravity and Birdman.Many will find it hard argue with the work by everyone involved here but that’s not to say that the film doesn’t have it’s flaws; the passage of time isn’t entirely clear, leaving it to look that Glass healed from his wounds overnight but the biggest issue for some could be how threadbare the story is. There’s really not a lot in regards to plot but I suppose that’s not entirely important when the whole aim of the film is create a sensory experience. When all is said and done, this isn’t a film that’s reliant on it’s narrative. If taken at face value, it’s linear structure could be deemed meaningless. However, if you approach it in a more metaphorical sense then the film works on a whole other level.

It’s about nature in all it’s beauty and unforgiving savagery. It’s about man’s place within this environment. It’s about greed, the origins of capitalism and how trading became devastating to the land and it’s indigenous people. Ultimately, there’s an environmental message that overshadows it’s central revenge theme. It’s as much about nature’s revenge as it is about Glass’. You could even argue that Glass is the embodiment of nature itself. These are interpretations that are better left to the individual viewer but when ruminated on, there is much to discuss.How many adjectives can you use to describe Iñárritu’s craftsmanship? Most of them have been used far more effectively than I ever could. How about voracious, rapacious and ostentatious? This is all of these things and revenge has never been more brutally depicted as it is in this epic survival tale.Mark Walker

Trivia: Tom Hardy was concerned about the safety of some of the stunts he had to do, which caused friction between him and director Alejandro González Iñárritu before Iñarritu allowed Hardy to choke him in return. Later, the image of Hardy strangling Iñarritu was immortalized in a T-shirt gifted by Hardy to all members of the crew, at the end of the shoot.

50 Responses to “The Revenant”

  1. I’m a big fan of the cinematography, too. I reckon it’s going to win big at the Oscars. Did you like the ending shot? What do you make of the stare? Is he staring at us, the audience, or staring at his wife?

    Liked by 1 person

    • The cinematography was just incredible wasn’t it? I’m a huge admirer of Roger Deakins and waiting for the moment that he finally wins an Oscar but it’s hard to see past Lubezki’s work here. Surely, he’ll make it 3 in row with this.

      The ending is one I haven’t decided on, Cindy. I suppose it could be interpreted that he could be looking at either of those. One suggesting his own death or the other suggesting the environmental angle again. Our place in this world.? I’d really have to give it another watch. It’s open to debate but to be honest, I’m not even sure I liked that ending shot. It took me out of the experience, you know?

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Totally agree with you here mate. It’s such an impressive film, Lubezki’s work is just phenomenal. The bear fight is just something else. The dream-type sequences didn’t do much for me, but I had very few grumbles with it.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Nice review Mark. You know my thoughts on Iñárritu, I know that many adore his work but I find his films off-putting and give off a “holier-than-thou” vibe. Because of that, I can’t really push myself to see The Revenant, though I know plenty of people have enjoyed it.

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    • Thanks Charles. I hear you on Iñárritu. He’s certainly not to everyone taste. I’ve always quite liked his films. They’re not easing viewing by any means but always worth the effort. I know of a few who don’t care for him much either, though.

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  4. Great review! Really looking forward to seeing this.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. You really enjoyed it! As you know I agree with a lot of this, it’s quite an experience. Lubezki’s work is something else. Have you seen Carol yet? Edward Lachman is a more than credible contender, as well as Deakins, and Carol contains my favourite photography of the past year. Anyway, all great work, and I’m glad you mentioned Malick. I forgot to mention him in my review but a lot of the shots of Glass and his wife (visions, flashbacks etc) had that feel.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I did really like it, man. I thought Lubezki was the star of the show. Outstanding cinematography!

      I haven’t seen Carol yet. Really looking forward to that and I don’t doubt the cinematography is great. It’s looks beautiful. I’ve seen Sicario and Deakins does some wonderful work there. He’s actually a real favourite of mine but I struggle to see past Lubezki.

      Definitely some Malick going on. I actually tried to fit in the line “Malick with a Musket” but couldn’t make it work. LOL.😉

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  6. Good review. It’s unrelenting, bleak and grim. However, I hardly ever looked away.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Fantastic review Mark! This one was just so immersive, it felt different. And I loved the acting, directing and most of all the cinematography.

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  8. Really glad you went for this one Mark. I loved it. So much going on under its surface.

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    • It was very good, man. It’s what was under the hood that I found most interesting. On the surface, it was a generic revenge plot but I reckon there’s more to it than that.
      Di Caprio was also great but I was a huge admirer of Hardy. Without taking anything away from Leo, I thought he delivered stronger work. My hope is now with Hardy for the Oscar.

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      • Hardy was superb. I’m telling you, this movie really stuck with me. I went back and saw it a second time and noticed even more layers than before. When I reviewed it I gave it the same score and I think it is well deserved.

        Liked by 1 person

      • It’s hard to give it anything else than 4.5. You have a review done? I’m missing all sorts of posts these days. I’ll swing by. Very much interested in your take on it.

        Liked by 1 person

  9. I’m mentally filling in that last star with a bit of blue. Five-star flick all the way for me!😉

    I would love to watch this movie again.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Haha! You’d have to colour them all in with a different colour. My 5stars always appear in red.

      I hear what you’re saying, though, man. It’s a fine flick for sure. Maybe once I see it again, I’ll re-colour those stars myself.😉

      Liked by 1 person

      • Ah yes, of course they are! Doy.

        I like how you balance out this review with some pros and cons (of the latter there are hardly any but if I had to pick I’d say there is a good bit of drag in the middle section). It’s important we don’t put Gonzalez et al up on too high a pedestal, but this is seriously one unique cinematic experience. I think that’s why I had less of an issue with the “threadbare story;” this was all about survival, about mood and attitude. The Academy has surprised us in the past but this thing I think is all but destined to win big

        Liked by 1 person

      • There are very few cons, for sure. I felt I had to mention a couple to justify why I never gave it the 5stars. I think you’re right, though. Come Oscar night I think this will soar. It’s hard to see anything on the same level. DiCaprio is shoe-in for best actor but if Hardy doesn’t get best support then I’ll be seriously pissed off. I thought he was outstanding. Leo is getting all the plaudits but I actually thought Hardy was stronger.

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      • Agreed. Hardy was, well. . . terrifying. Hah! Meanwhile, this is one of few reviews that actually bother to mention Will Poulter and Domhnall Gleeson. Both were excellent as well, particularly Poulter who I had serious doubts over whether he’d fit in with this kind of dramatic material. Gleeson was a bit shakier but I always love that guy

        Liked by 1 person

      • Yeah, I mention Poulter and Gleeson only in passing but they deserve more praise than I gave them. I thought they were excellent. And who the fuck’s palm has Gleeson been greasing these days? He’s in absolutely everything. All good stuff as well.😉

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  10. Great review Mark! This movie was simply stunning to look at, and DiCaprio and Hardy really brought the goods with this one.

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  11. Excellent review! I am seeing it this week and I just cannot wait, so glad to read the praise for Tom!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Sati. It really packs a punch and as much as all the buzz has been surrounding DiCaprio’s work, I actually thought Hardy was even better. I don’t think he’s been getting enough credit. Hope you enjoy it.

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  12. Terrific stuff Mark. I find myself agreeing with you almost exclusively. I had a discussion the other day about The Revenant with someone who didn’t like it as much as we did, and I can see why given the film is narratively light (and perhaps cold — I don’t even think Glass is a particularly interesting character). But the performances of DiCpario and Hardy, the sheer technical prowess, the cinematic experience — all of that superseded the lack of narrative richness in my eyes.

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    • Cheers Adam! Yeah, I found the narrative a slight issue but that only led me to ponder the film’s deeper meaning – of which I think it has many. But like you say, even if you were to take the narrative at face value there’s still so much more going on visually and the performances are terrific. I see you have a review up Yourself? I’ll swing by when I get a minute.🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  13. Great stuff Mark. I’m all alone on my island! I loved the look of this but not much else. =/ I’m glad you liked it though, as so many have.

    I will say though that I gotta agree with the lack of knowing how much time passed…. one moment his leg is twisted around and totally fucked, and not long later he can suddenly walk perfectly, even nimbly dodging when needed. That took me out of the experience over and over.

    And the ending…. that ending irritated me as much as it confused me. To me it doesn’t make any sense, but that is just my unlearned opinion😉

    Liked by 1 person

    • Fair enough, man! To each their own. I can see why this might not work for some.
      Totally agree on the passage of time, though. That really did irk me quite a bit and I’m still pondering that ending myself. I’m actually not sure if I liked it or not. I’ll wait for another viewing before deciding. That said, there’s were so many other things going on that I couldn’t help but be immersed for the majority of it.

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      • Yeah fair enough, it is a amazing film to look at. What I didn’t understand about the ending is that what Leo mutters in Pawnee at the end directly contradicts what transpires. I guess we can’t really go into much more detail because spoilers

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      • I must have missed what he says in Pawnee. I don’t recall that but now I really need to catch it again.

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  14. Sterling work Mark, this one sounds like a contender for one of the top movies from 2015. It’s good to see Hardy getting a lot of praise.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. Yowzers, great review Mark! Watching this sometime this week hopefully, but boy has this film been divisive!

    Liked by 1 person

    • As you can see, it worked for me bud. Not entirely, though. I had some issues here and there but for the most part, this is an major cinematic experience. You could argue that it sets a benchmark in terms of realism. I look forward to your thoughts mate. Cheers!🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  16. One of those films you just have to see at the cinema. The acting is phenomenal though Leo should have won for past roles. I thought of Saving Private Ryan too. The cinematography is just superb. it just makes you want to be a photographer doesn’t it. And I saw the ending as him looking at the end of life.

    Liked by 1 person

    • It’s was quite the experience, man. I had Leo a hands down winner for the Oscar for his work here but now I’ve seen The Fass in Steve Jobs, my opinion has changed. That said, I still think The Revenant will clear up.

      Like

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