Reviewed by Daniel Janks: actor, creative director, writer, cynic, father, husband. He was born in 1977 and has still not died. He loves many things, chief among which are his mythic wife and odd girl-child. Visit his website.
Rating – 4/5
Director : Alejandro González Iñárritu
Writer : Mark L. Smith, Alejandro González Iñárritu
Cast : Leonardo DiCaprio, Tom Hardy, Domhnall Gleeson
AGE RESTRICTION: [R]
Ja, so Leo kinda gets ripped apart a bit by a bear, probably shouldn’t take your six year old. Winnie the Pooh will never be the same again.
This is a great film. I thoroughly enjoyed watching it and it is incredibly beautifully made. Having said that, I left the theatre feeling a little disappointed. Too much of the film is Leo crawling around foaming at the mouth. He’s very good at it, and the moments where he’s doing it are hard to watch and very compelling, but for me there was just a little too much of it.
The Revenant tells the story of Hugh Glass’s desperate and clawing bid for survival and revenge. Glass, a hunter and fur trader, is mauled by a bear and then left for dead by the men who promise to stay by his side. Hounded by the fierce winter, hunted by Indians, grievously wounded, it is only Glass’ determination and unstoppable will to see justice visited on the men who wronged him, that pulls him, inch by inch, though icy hell.
There is a grit and visceral simplicity to the characters that drive the film. The heart and beauty of many great westerns lies in the simple unsophistication and basic humanity of their characters. So it is with The Revenant, it’s an epic tale, a grand adventure, but its heart beats in its simple, true characters and plainly beautiful pictures.
DiCaprio’s Glass drives the film, the movie depends on his unstoppable desire to live and to see his revenge sunk deep into the hearts of his enemies. DiCaprio brings his usual fierce focus and unflinching, jaw-clenched, relentless, barreling energy to the role. It is, as it always is for me, a little too relentless and unflinching. I think DiCaprio is a wonderful actor, his performances are always compelling and enthralling, but I always find them a little too focused, a bit too … intense. He never lightens, never softens, never allows us a moment of vulnerability. He seems to wrap his character and his performance around himself like a vault, perhaps he has the key, but I have never felt like I do.
On the other hand, Tom Hardy (unquestionably my favourite actor working today), manages to bring the same fierceness, the same focus and energy to his performances, but also manages to imbue them with a nuance and undulating intensity that always strikes me right in the gut. I am enthralled by DiCaprio’s performances, I am moved by Hardy’s. In contrast to DiCaprio’s armour, Hardy seems to open himself and allow us in through his performances. In The Revenant it is Hardy’s John Fitzgerald that I couldn’t take my eyes off.
At the heart of any film is the vision of its creator/s. All too often we see films with no vision, and no heart. But what sets the great filmmakers apart from the mediocre ones is their vision, and their steadfast simple refusal to settle for anything in their films that doesn’t do it justice. Leading the visionary pack today is Alejandro González Iñárritu. His films express his voice, they allow the audience a glimpse of the unique and enchanting way he sees the world. The amazing characters and performances, fascinating stories and concepts, interesting questions and statements that give his films so much life and soul are defined and held by his vision.
The Revenant is rich with Alejandro González Iñárritu individual voice. His use of long journeying shots, the contrast between his excruciating close-ups and stomach flipping long shots, his breathtaking ability to cast land and location as character and driving force, all combine with his fine touch in directing performance to produce a film intricate in its delicate detail and immense in its vast scope. But within these beautiful elements there is something missing, something lacking. Something in his lead character’s excruciation let me down. Something is his clawing determination put me off. Something in Iñárritu’s vision’s tick was ever so slightly out of time with its tock. It’s the smallest of things, but glaring in its absence.
The Revenant is a beautiful film. Exquisitely crafted and enthralling in it’s detail and scope. It is almost perfect. Almost.
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