Bring a winter coat for this one. Trust me.
Directed by: Alejandro G. Iñarritu
Produced by: Arnon Milchan, Steve Golin, Alejandro G. Iñarritu, David Kanter, Mary Parent, James W. Skotchdopole, Keith Redmon
Written by: Mark L. Smith, Alejandro G. Iñarritu
Based on: The Revenant, by Michael Punke
Genre: Western, thriller
Starring: Leonardo DiCaprio, Tom Hardy, Domhnall Gleeson, Will Poulter, Forrest Goodluck, Arthur RedCloud, Duane Howard
Music by: Ryuichi Sakamoto
Plot: Set in the freezing wilds of 1823 Montana and South Dakota, The Revenant centers around a group of trappers and hunters led by Captain Andrew Henry (Domhnall Gleeson), more specifically High Glass (Leonardo DiCaprio),an extremely talented tracker. In a shitty turn in the already shitty life of a 19th century frontiersman, Glass is torn to pieces by one of the most badass/adorable animals to walk the face of the planet.
I’m tempted to make this entire review a series of bear pictures, because bears are fucking awesome, and anyone who thinks otherwise doesn’t deserve to breathe the same oxygen as the majestic ursine mammal. I will resist this urge though, because I am a goddamned professional.
Ah, fuck it. Who am I kidding?
Anyways, Glass is torn to sheds by a grizzly, and his hunting party leaves him to die (Well… Actually, it’s more complicated than that, but let’s not spoil it, eh?). However, Glass makes a damn near miraculous recovery, and he sets off on a quest to take revenge on the people/person who wronged him.
Development for The Revenant originally began in 2001, when the rights to Michael Punke’s unpublished manuscript were bought by Akiva Goldsman. Make of that what you will. The movie was bounced from director and lead actor to director and lead actor, with Park Chan-Wook and Samuel L. Jackson set to make the film at one point, and John Hillcoat and Christian Bale set to make it at another. Finally, in 2011, Alejandro Gonzalez Iñarritu signed on to direct.
Iñarritu has had a really fucking great couple of years. In 2014, he made my favourite movei of that year, Birdman, which beat out Boyhood (Hisssssss) for Best Picture. His distinctive style (That is, the component of his style that doesn’t consist of keeping Emmanuel Lubezki locked in his basement, letting him out only to make movies and accept Oscars) appears to be something along the lines of “Do something really fucking weird and different that shouldn’t work”, and that is definitely still the case with The Revenant.
The Revenant is shot (partly in my home province of Alberta, Canada) entirely in natural light, with Emmanuel Lubezki on board as cinematographer, and it looks fucking unbelievable. When the free-flowing camera (because Iñarritu) isn’t focused on abject human misery, it’s focused on breathtakingly beautiful scenery that really works to echo the harsh, cold nature of the story.
I also imagine (not unreasonably, I imagine) that shooting in natural light is one of the hardest goddamn things of the planet to do, especially when it isn’t strictly necessary at all, but goddamn it, this is the way it has to be. That is vision. That is dedication. I mean, it’s also fucking insanity, but it’s also super damn cool, so it’s all worth it.
Another positive for The Revenant, in my opinion, is its portrayal of First Nations People. That is, portraying them as actual people and not holding them to some perfect ideal. In most historical-ish movies like this one, ESPECIALLY ones that receive award consideration, there’s always the tendency to portray Natives as being some big happy family of pacifistic hippies. Personally (Admittedly, speaking as a non-Aboriginal person), I find that depiction almost, if not just as dehumanizing as primitive, ax-crazy savages. Yeah, they’re oppressed people whose land is being stolen and all that good stuff, but that doesn’t mean they couldn’t get fucking hardcore too.
Domhnall Gleeson (Who you may remember from every movie last year) is really great, as is Will Poulter as kind of a young, innocent trapper who’s baptized by fire. Tom Hardy though… That dude steals the damn show a whole bunch of times. He’s comparable to…. Wait….Fuck, who’s the lead of this movie again? I can’t remember, there’s been barely any coverage.
Hardy does that thing where he lowers his voice to a gravelly mumble again, but… Shit, he does it so fucking well!!! Tom Hardy is goddamn Money, and I want him to be in every movie ever from now on.
The only real flaw that comes to mind is how some of the backstory is told. More specifically, whenever Hugh Glass’ backstory is told through these surreal flashbacks. And the first few times they’re used, they’re cool, and intriguing to watch (though I am a sucker for that sort of thing). However, the next fifty times this storytelling device is used, it just gets more and more tedious, and really just comes off as pretentious filler.
Also, there’s a scene that I won’t give away, but… Yeah, Glass should’ve fucking died. No fucking way. If you’ve seen the movie, you know what I mean. If they had cut this scene and some of those flashbacks, I feel like it could’ve been a hell of a lot tighter, runtime-wise.
But yeah! We’ve talked about everything there is to talk about with The Revenant. See y’all! If you need me, I’ll just be over here sniffing glue and screaming at the voices in my head.
I’m trolling, obviously, let’s talk about Leo.
It’s become a running joke at this point that Leo should’ve won two or three Oscars at this point in his career and has none to his name, and as pointless as the Oscars have become for the general public, it is quite a shame when deserving people get snubbed repeatedly, especially a fucking phenomenal actor like Leo. I don’t know if The Revenant is his best role, per se (that he wasn’t even nominated for Django Unchained is a tragedy), but dammit if he doesn’t give a hell of a fucking performance. He stays away from many Leo “tropes” (See: Aviator, The) and is completely believable as guy who’s been torn tip-to-toe by a large, hairy mammal.
So yeah. Give Leo the Oscar. The man’s earned it. If he gets the middle finger again, we don’t have the right to judge him for any violent crimes he commits after.
Overall: It’s overlong, but that’s made up for by the tremendous performances and astounding visuals. Iñarritu probably isn’t going to be a stranger at the Oscar ceremonies for the next few years.