Friday, January 29, 2016

The Revenant Review

Leonardo DiCaprio is a phenomenal actor who puts forth extraordinary effort in his acting and ends up delivering a particularly high-quality performance. It's no secret he's striving for an Oscar award, and remarkable as many of his performances have been, he has yet to earn that particular award. In his latest film, The Revenant (2015), the whole movie is anchored in DiCaprio's 200% commitment to his performance. It's a good movie with a stellar cast, but not something that's going to stick with you very long afterwards.
While exploring the uncharted wilderness in 1823, legendary frontiersman Hugh Glass (Leonardo DiCaprio) sustains injuries from a brutal bear attack. When his hunting team leaves him for dead, Glass must utilize his survival skills to find a way back home, guided by sheer will and the love of his family. Grief-stricken and fueled by vengeance, Glass treks through the wintry terrain to track down John Fitzgerald (Tom Hardy), the former confidant who betrayed and abandoned him.
For a movie set in the uncharted American frontier, there were a number of British and Irish actors portraying American characters. Tom Hardy, Will Poulter, and Domhnall Gleeson all played prominent roles in The Revenant with remarkably spot on accents. Of these three actors, I thought Tom Hardy was most impressive. I didn't even realize it was Tom Hardy until the end credits started rolling. He has this thick accent that I can only describe as being "southern," nebulous as that term might be to describe an accent. He also had a thick mop of hair and a scraggly beard hiding most of his face. His acting and makeup was so well done that I did not realize it was Tom Hardy at all. Domhnall Gleeson is becoming a favorite of mine. He's known for playing Bill Weasley in the Harry Potter movies, Phil in Unbroken, and recently General Hux in Star Wars: The Force Awakens. He's a solid a actor who delivers great performances. Will Poulter has appeared in The Maze Runner and The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader. He's still fairly new to the big screen, but does a fine job here juxtaposed with some big name talents.
Leonardo DiCaprio's skill and passion for acting is very much evident here. He depicts intense emotions as he portrays Hugh Glass enduring trial after trial and struggling to keep alive in a harsh, unforgiving frozen wilderness. He's grief-stricken and fueled by vengeance, and it shows in every little thing Glass does, from begging a Native American he encounters for some food to stave off starvation, to rescuing a girl from being raped by frontiersmen. DiCaprio imbues his character with an intensity that is simply remarkable to watch.
Director Alejandro G. Iñárritu takes DiCaprio's performance and makes it even better with some truly magnificent camera work. This is the first Iñárritu film I've  ever seen, and his mastery of capturing beautiful imagery is beyond compare. Even with some of the grotesque scenes, it still looks beautifully done. The Revenant captures some truly gorgeous shots of the wilderness, forests, and frozen tundra. The way shots were set up was very artistic without a sense of self-importance. There weren't many shots that didn't look like a work of art. The Revenant was a beautiful movie to watch.
Having said all that, it took me a while to determine if I actually liked it. The story within the movie was pretty simple. There's a set up which was interesting, a remarkably long middle full of Hugh Glass trying to not die, and a conclusion that wasn't very straightforward. I daresay The Revenant could have been much shorter and still achieved the story it set out to tell. There were many moments where Glass was simply walking or staring off wistfully into the distance. Yes, these moments looked good, but made the movie drag significantly in terms of story. I don't want to say it was slow moving, because there was so much to visually take in. But the story progressed at a snail's pace at times, even if it was beautiful to watch. It wasn't until well after the movie ended that it occurred to me that The Revenant was more about the experience than the narrative. It was about the experience Hugh Glass had trying to survive after being mauled by a bear and left for dead, not the story of how he survived. It's also about our experience of witnessing this beautifully constructed film, not the film telling us a deep or meaningful story. It's likely the movie won't appeal to some audiences because of how drawn out the story ends up being, but that by no means is to suggest that it is a poor movie.
The Revenant is a starkly beautiful as it is uncompromisingly harsh. There is a phenomenal cast delivering well made characters, and a highly skilled director showing us some remarkably beautiful scenery and capturing it in the most visually stunning way. The story here is not the point, and is in fact a very simple story. The Revenant is about the experience, not the story. I do think that The Revenant is worth seeing if you are not too put off by the violent and occasionally gory images and the aforementioned sexual assault that give it its R rating. There is a chance you may find it too "artistic" if you value story over visual delivery. I'm glad I saw it, but it's not something I'd go out of my way to see a second time.

Is there a role that you think Leonardo DiCaprio deserved an Oscar for? Comment below and tell me about it!

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