Limited Release Date: December 25, 2015
Release Date: January 8, 2016
Director: Alejandro Gonzàlez Inàrritu
Writer: Alejandro Gonzàlez Inàrritu, Micael Punke, Mark L. Smith
Cast: Tom Hardy, Leonardo DiCarprio, Domhnall Gleeson, Will Poulter, Paul Anderson, Lukas Haas, Brendan Fletcher, Javier Botet, Brad Carter, Kory Grim, Kristoffer Joner, Grace Dove, Dave Burchill, McCaleb Burnett, Adrian Glynn McMorran, Forrest Goodluck, Robert Moloney, Joshua Burge, Vincent Leclerc, Christopher Rosamond, Timothy Lyle, Mark Krysko, Michael Villar
MPAA Rating: R
Runtime: 156 minutes
Production Company: New Regency Pictures, Anonymous Content, Appian Way, RatPac Entertainment, Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation
Genre: Adventure, Drama, Western
Budget: $135,000,000 (estimated)
Whether you’ve seen every film released, or just one a month, the style of each title may appear to bleed together. With three to five films being released in one week, it may feel the same form of cinema hit your local theater a few months ago. It takes a unique mind, and a true craftsman to produce something refreshing and new. It’s not an easy task by far, and the chance at finding such talent is as hard as winning from a scratch off ticket. So director Alejandro González Iñárritu didn’t have a fluke with his academy award winning film Birdman. This time he takes a new spin behind the camera in an action, adventure, western, during the 19th century, and is even better than his last (I enjoyed Birdman, but not as much as others). This film speaks volumes from its stylistic choices alone. Then involves a star-studded cast, contains a rich story, and paints a map on the will to survive. While not being a cinematic masterpiece, it does come dangerously close.
Based on true events The Revenant tells the story of the measure of a man. Besides being loyal to a cause, there are some lines that no man should ever cross. Unfortunately those lines are stepped on, crossed over, and given little thought. These are the cards Hugh Glass (Leonardo DiCaprio) was dealt, and in no way, shape, or form did he deserve it. With his son by his side, and colleague’s right behind, he’s just trying to make a day’s living. He by definition gets the short end of stick, and it shines light on how life isn’t fair. While being subtle initially, the story has themes of how far a man will go to live. This was defined by pride, and doing what’s right, which has a multiple meanings, keeping you interested and engaged. If you ever knew your limits, it would take a tragedy to break free, and that’s the sole purpose behind Glass’ motivation that keeps him trucking on. After being mauled by a bear, and then betrayed, all hope seemed lost, but the love of his family keeps him moving on. It’s a powerful notion behind the film, and a reason this story is told.
The character of Hugh Glass had my respect from the start. He knew where to draw the line between professionalism and being a father. He loved his boy with all his heart, only wanting the best for him. He picked his battles wisely, always waiting for the right time to strike. While I thought this film would be DiCaprio’s Oscar win, I still can’t acknowledge he should take that trophy. From his character efforts in the film, I did feel as if I was sharing his pain, but a choice in depicting the story caused a distraction from multiple glimpses into the wilderness. His performance was remarkable, but for a leading man he’s still beat out this year. On the other hand, John Fitzgerald’s (Tom Hardy) character is in a league of his own. He wrote the book on being cold-hearted, and his performance was truly terrifying. I couldn’t help but think what horrible acts could have happened, to get him to such a point. He was the devil himself, knew it, and wore the crown proudly. Surprisingly I admired him towards the beginning of the film, from him having no filter. He would get right in your face, tell you he didn’t like you, then provide essay long answers for each reason and why. I love a man that honest, and that’s his only admirable trait. Jim Bridger’s (Will Poulter) character provided a shockingly well performance too. I didn’t know he had that in him, and he’s now on my radar.
What impressed me the most was the direction of the film. The choices Iñárritu made with the camera was something I’ve never seen. He has a true talent at capturing a frame as if each moving shot was a piece of art. I’ve never seen so many long shots that didn’t break on a consistent basis back to back. While the whole film is great, the first thirty minutes blew my mind, as if I were watching titans duke it out. These action shots were masterful, and the special features should be another film unto itself, because it seemed impossible from what he did in the director’s chair. The cinematography is splendid, and gains my utmost respect only using natural light. The high budget behind this production is worth every penny, from what he was able to puzzle together. The icing on the cake was the scene with the mauling bear. Oh my freaking goodness gracious. This scene alone makes me want to drop everything in my life, and enroll into film school. The visual effects with the bear are some of the best I’ve seen. Unless the bear was real (I doubt it) the cgi made Dawn of The Planet of the Apes look like child’s play. If Iñárritu isn’t recognized for this, the ultimate crime would be committed.
While this film is like nothing you’ve ever witnessed, it still has its flaws. I felt the runtime was ten minutes too long, but at least it was spent on beautiful shots. With all the acting talent, the imagery was already beloved in the background, so dedicating shots alone to just the landscape was a little overkill. Also while Glass went through hell and back, he should’ve stayed in hell much longer. While being mauled by a bear, I felt his recovery came around too fast. He struggled, and moaned giving one of the better performances of the year, but with all that happened he should’ve struggled just a tad bit more. In only a few days’ time, it’s beyond me how an ankle can be put back in place after it appeared it’s been snapped in multiple places. On top of the terrain, climbing mountains, and floating through rivers, it all seemed a little over the top to withstand. I’m not saying this didn’t happen in real life, but the way it’s presented made it appear some corners were cut.
Nearly no film is perfect, and this one isn’t either. There’s a number of nitpicks, but some of the choices are so delightful, that it brings the film back up to an award winning level. No other director could pull off some of these stunts, and if they tried it wouldn’t be the same. That’s the beauty of filmmaking, and another reason I recommend this film. It’s not for everyone, even though I loved it nearly from beginning to end. With everything it did right, I can’t wait to see it again.