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*** This review may contain spoilers ***
You are almost immediately plunged into the action, in a similar way to
the opening of 'Saving Private Ryan', with a Native American attack on
a group of fur trappers. DiCaprio even does that momentarily deaf thing
that Tom Hanks does. Lots of bows and arrows and gore and excellent
photography that is really immersive. Great opening scene.
There there's the scene where DiCaprio is mauled by a grizzly bear. Again, really believable, exciting and up front and personal - you can almost smell the bear's stinking breath. Brilliant.
And then there's ... well ... not much really. Photography and scenery are by and large excellent but you do get the feeling that better use could have been made of them. Iñárritu often seems to chop scenes around for no particular reason, although you do get the occasional sense of the vast wilderness that comes over well on the big screen.
Dialogue is scarce. Most of it goes to Tom Hardy who tries to put on a Texan accent but succeeds in sounding as if he has a sock in his mouth (does he specialise in being inaudible? remember him as the mumbling Bane in 'The Dark Knight Rises'?).
Then there's the storyline. You know the ending, right? (Just look up the definition of 'revenant'.) Leo is up against it and he suffers a great deal. But you know he is going to survive. So when, to top everything, he falls off a cliff on his horse you realise he's actually become Mr Indestructible. And two and a half hours of crawling, grimacing and wincing does not a very entertaining film make.
There are also several non-credible plot twists. Like when Tom Hardy (a.k.a. The Mumbler) somehow cracks an impressive-looking safe and makes off with the garrison money and just two guys go after him, including the garrison commander. This nicely sets up the final confrontation between Mr Indestructible and The Mumbler .... but really?
We also develop little or no emotional connection with the main character. The silent dream scenes are a clichéd way of trying to do this and they don't work in my opinion - they're just puzzling and boring. Nor do we see much of the relationship between Leo and his son to set up the emotional links between them - just Leo being harsh and dishing out tough love a couple of times.
The pacing is also poor. Once you've passed the opening scene and the grizzly scene, feel free to go and refresh your popcorn - you won't miss much.
Overall, the film is self-consciously bleak and overdetermined and is unevenly paced. A better director might possibly have made this a good film but Iñárritu is clearly not David Lean.
If DiCaprio gets an Oscar for this it will be because the Academy think they owe him one and possibly because of the hype. This is a film that will be forgotten. If you want to see a good silent movie with snow, ice, struggle for survival and even the odd grizzly bear thrown in, watch Chaplin's 'The Gold Rush' - it's far more entertaining.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
A lot has been said and written about this film, mostly about its
troubled production - forget all that: it has no meaning whatsoever for
the experience this film provides. A word of advice though: if you go
in expecting a testosterone-fueled revenge thriller in the vein of
'Apocalypto', you'll likely end up disappointed. It's simply not that
kind of film - but that doesn't mean you won't enjoy it if you watch it
with the right expectations.
'The Revenant' opens with images from a dream; we see snippets of memories showing a peaceful life - and soon the loss of that peace, and the loss of life. The images change and we hear the soothing sound of gurgling water as we follow the camera via a long tracking shot over a flooded forest; it's an image that seems to imply peace, evoking nature's beauty with an almost meditative quality - before the barrel of a rifle appears in the frame.
Those first three minutes I just described (which are the only spoilers you will get in this review) set the tone for the film perfectly. It's a film that tells a story of harrowing circumstances through images that are breathtakingly beautiful; a film about survival and death and shocking acts of sudden violence - and yet a film that, despite all its visceral intensity, also has a quiet, immersive quality to it that feels almost hypnotic.
Many critics and reviewers have pointed out the stark contrast between the film's poetic beauty and the ugliness of its violence - implying the director wanted to use this contrast to make a certain point regarding mankind's interference with nature. While that would seem pretty obvious (and it probably is at least partly true), I left the film feeling Iñarritu had shown a vaster, far too complete image of the clash between man and nature to justify such a simplistic interpretation of the events portrayed on screen. Whether intentionally or not, Iñarritu shows the star of his film with a complexity and honesty that we normally don't get to see in these kinds of stories. And I'm not talking about Leonardo DiCaprio here (who gives a no-holds-barred, crazy good performance and I'd love to see him win an Oscar for this film) - the star of this film is not a person: it IS nature, plain and simple.
The revenge plot - which felt almost like an afterthought or a ploy to give the film a certain structure and a proper ending - is not really the film's main theme or strongest aspect, and it certainly isn't the reason that made this film so compelling to watch for me. Such stories have been told often enough - and often better - than in 'The Revenant'. No, what really made this film stand out for me is that I have NEVER seen a Hollywood film (any film, really - apart from documentaries) that showed nature in such an unflinchingly honest and mesmerizing way as was the case here. And the way I perceive it, Iñarritu sees his human protagonists as being very much a part of nature as a whole - regardless of their destructive behaviour.
It's that refreshingly wholistic approach (which some viewers might perceive as nihilism on the director's part) that I found to be the film's biggest accomplishment: it depicts the people in this story as just another species trying to survive in that perilous frontier-world. The emphasis is not really on the moral aspects of the brutal injustice that the main character suffers or how the Native Americans are cruelly exploited; we witness all that - but Iñarritu keeps a certain emotional distance, as if he were shooting a documentary about predatory wildlife. And just like the bear's attack, most of the violence in this film comes as a reaction of defense. Be it self-defense, defending one's offspring or defending territory and valuable resources. Even the character that comes closest to an actual villain is driven by fear - not hate, and his most obvious character defects were caused by a very traumatizing experience. As in nature, there is a simple (if often brutal) logic to why most characters, men or beasts, act the way they do in 'The Revenant' (OK, maybe not the French - but I didn't say the film was perfect, did I). And the bear attack was the most realistic depiction of an animal attack I have ever seen on film.
All in all, this film felt less like a story of revenge and more like an ode to the visceral beauty of nature and the relentless, savage force that is life; it provides an immensely absorbing - and touching - experience to those who have an affinity for the wilderness, but it's also a visual masterpiece and a great piece of old-school filmmaking for lovers of Cinema. It's not perfect (especially during the last third of the film where I felt the pacing was a bit off), but it's a film the likes of which we will only rarely get to see - if at all - in the future. 'The Revenant' is visual poetry of the most primal kind, and it should be seen on the biggest screen possible. 9 stars out of 10 from me.
Favorite films: http://www.IMDb.com/list/mkjOKvqlSBs/
Lesser-Known Masterpieces: http://www.imdb.com/list/ls070242495/
Favorite Low-Budget and B-Movies: http://www.imdb.com/list/ls054808375/
The Revenant falls into the same category as Aronofsky's "Requiem for a
Dream" and Spielberg's "Schindler's List" for me, in the essence of
being a terrific movie but not something I think I can sit through a
second time. In all these movies there are brutal sequences that cause
emotional stress and disgust just watching because it is so REAL and
GRIPPING. To think that events in these movies actually happened or
that they could very well happen is too much for me to think about. Not
to say that I did not enjoy this film thoroughly.
The Revenant is a technical masterpiece that left me wondering "How the hell did they do that?" after many scenes and sequences. With beautiful cinematography and adroit camera movement this film is a visual magnum opus. It is apparent that the great minds that put forth this film are none other than the same ones that brought us Birdman: Lubezki and Inarritu. There are many long shots without cuts that are sprinkled throughout the film that add a sense of sophistication to it with the added bonus of predominantly location based shooting and natural lighting for the film , that can even make a novice film watcher raise an eyebrow at its complexity.
The camera work is not the only noteworthy aspect of the film; The actors did a superb job executing their rolls. Many are raving about DiCaprio's performance but I was more of a fan of Hardy's brutal and gritty character Fitzgerald. Granted, half the words that came out of his mouth were unintelligible but he left no doubt in my mind that he was fully devoted to his role and bringing Fitzgerald alive instead of just Hardy playing a character named Fitzgerald. He was simply amazing.
With all this said, there are still flaws in the film. At some points it was dragging on and moving too slow. It gave the impression that the film itself was cocky and wanted to show off all of its beautiful scenery and camera work too much. Then there was the "he shouldn't be alive" situations. Hugh Glass was a real guy that really did survive a bear mauling but in the film they make this guy practically immortal. There were too many instances where I was thinking "he should be dead three times over right now, for me to enjoy the film as much I should have.
All in all a great film that I only recommend to seasoned and mature film viewers.
Take the direction of Alejandro González Iñárritu, combine it with the
stunning cinematography of Emmanuel Lubezki and toss in Leonardo
DiCaprio and Tom Hardy for their acting charms and what do you get? An
extraordinary and masterful film.
Fresh off of 'Birdman,' Iñárritu moved straight on to 'The Revenant,' a western-epic inspired by the true-life experiences of frontiersman Hugh Glass in the winter-struck landscape of 1820s America. The film gained some notoriety in mid-2015 for its production problems and has thus been regarded one of the most challenging film shoots in the history of cinema. Rightfully so. The film opens with the soothing sound of running water, thrusting the audience into an almost meditative state, and then it strikes, an action-packed sequence ensues with a near single sweeping take. Now this is a spoiler-free review, so I'll leave the pleasure of viewing that scene to you.
This film heavily evokes reactions from the audience and does so well, whether it's staring at the screen in awe or gasping at the visceral violence, if you face this film with the right attitude and expectations, it will be a thrill ride like no other. Lubezki has proved that he is one of the most fantastic cinematographers of modern cinema, and the extensive use of natural lighting over artificial supports that statement even further, the film is beyond stunning. Supporting this is the score from the relatively unknown composers, believe me, when the sudden orchestral boom strikes your eardrums, it's mesmerising.
The makeup, the direction, the editing, the visual aesthetics, and of course the performances from a hopefully soon-to-be Oscar winning DiCaprio, 'The Revenant' is a visual treat for those who appreciate cinema and for those who wish to just get absorbed by the immense landscapes and poetic justice Iñárritu has given it. This is, for me, a modern masterpiece.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
What an absolute waste of 2.5 hours.
It didn't look like it was going to be my type of film, but the trailer was very convincing, not to mention the plethora of award nominations it has received, so I decided to give it a go.
It started with a collection of superb actors, delivering solid performances. Despite what I've read, I thought Tom Hardy's accent was spot on - that is what that accent sounds like! Domhnall Gleeson is in everything these days, for good reason, and Will Poulter was certainly endearing. Leonardo DiCaprio was excellent, dragging oneself through the snow post-bear mauling should be pretty torturous, and as we know from Wolf of Wall Street's infamous 'Ludes' scene, DiCaprio is a pro at crawling and grunting.
A cast such as this should have delivered an outstanding movie, so I can only assume something went catastrophically wrong with the script. Because my God was it BORING.
There was absolutely zero character development. If you're going to produce something that is on the long side, at least give me something to work with here? The son was killed so early (and following so few lines) I genuinely didn't care, which didn't help to lay a foundation for why I should care about Glass's prolonged revenge mission.
As well as the characters being entirely 2D, they also quickly became parodies of themselves. "The Revenant Presents: Domhnall Gleeson as the Principled Yet Naive Captain (who must die as punishment for his ineptitude); Tom Hardy as the Southern Villain (with no redeeming features, who likewise must die to maintain the idea of a Just World); Will Poulter as the Impressionable Young Soldier-type and Leonardo DiCaprio as the Tortured Hero. Don't forget the Arrogant French Braggarts, and the Wise Yet Ruthless Indigenous People. Oh and Tom Hardy's Random Cockney Friend."
While I still think Hardy's accent was well executed, the choice to use an accent which is often a source of ridicule (I'm not endorsing that view) only served to undermine the tension rather than build it, making him seem like a fool rather than a dangerous adversary. Admittedly, he did a kill a number of people so maybe playing The Fool was his way of lulling everyone into a false sense of security.
DiCaprio was convincing in his role of the Aggrieved Father avenging the death of his son, but his journey of adversity quickly became absurd rather than laudable. The bear attack was BRUTAL, and as his company quickly concluded, it seems unlikely he would have survived his injuries, particularly when being carted around in the depth of winter.
But no, not only does he survive, he also survives Hardy's attempt to smother him, and being dragged into a partial burial, as well as witnessing the murder of his son (which would be enough to render any of us catatonic). OK, this might be plausible, maybe.
Then he wanders around for a bit, spurred on by the prospect of vengeance, before being nearly drowned in a river. Again, the trip down the rapids would have been enough to drown the average man, let alone someone who has just suffered a savage bear attack followed by an attempted smothering. But no, he comes to a gentle stop at the river bank and has a nap - mysteriously without succumbing to hypothermia.
Cue more wandering, some assistance from a kindly fellow wanderer, and yet more wandering.
As if three potential deaths weren't enough (four if you account for the bear effectively attacking him twice), he's then under attack by the very people who's daughter he's just rescued, and not only does he not get shot (despite these people having been shown to be frighteningly accurate), his horse RIDES HIM OFF A CLIFF and surprise, surprise - HE LIVES! In fact, he doesn't just survive it, he guts the dead horse and SLEEPS INSIDE IT. *Beats chest asserting manliness*
By the end I was desperate for one of them to just kill the other so I could go home. Tom Hardy finally met his maker - not before uttering the obligatory moral message that revenge doesn't make us feel better.
The Revenant is a classic case of style over substance. Fantastic actors, slipping effortlessly into a range of clichéd characters, stunning cinematography, and zero emotion. I'm a crier, I will cry at the majority of films and TV shows (and occasionally books), so the fact that I not only didn't cry, but felt absolutely nothing towards any of the characters, says it all.
It's clearly a polarising piece of work, I've seen many other reviews here that echo my sentiments, yet my boyfriend loved it, and the average rating is currently 8.3! Unfortunately, Award Land appears to be siding with my other half. This year's Oscar Best Picture category is a crowded race with several worthy contenders - but the Revenant is not one, and I really hope it doesn't win.
Does DiCaprio deserve the nomination? He was one of the better things in this film, and playing such a role must have pushed him to his physical limits, so maybe he does. Frankly, he's massively overdue one so for God's sake just give the man an Oscar and let's forget this absurd study in masculine pride ever existed.
The natural landscape and some of the scenes are overwhelming and
spectacular! The camera-work is so immersive, you believe are a part of
Hugh Glass' journey through the wilderness and back to civilization.
Also with great performances not only by DiCaprio, but also Hardy, as
the unsympathetic fellow fur trapper leaving Glass behind.
Story-wise, it is a bit thin for a 156 min picture. Glass' quest for vengeance is sometimes lost as he utters few words about his drive and is being more or less, chased himself. The story arc of the Indians quest for their daughter felt a bit out of place and strange. We also get to see the fur trappers p.o.v. that left Glass behind and the Captain way ahead of them. Which in my opinion takes a little bit of the magic of Glass' total perilous journey.
All my stars goes to the beauty, production value and performances alone! Regardless, this is one of those overlong movies one like, but would not sit out for another viewing!
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I was hoping for something a bit more interesting than Hollywood's
standard approach to cowboys and indians, especially as the film seems
to have been critically acclaimed and Leo is a great actor.
The quality of the camera-work is excellent and the bear mauling scene very accomplished if that is the right way to describe such a visceral few minutes. But oh the plot. If you try to take it seriously it fails utterly. As an Indiana Jones caper it lacks wit. Too often you say 'I know he'd be dead from hypothermia/blood loss etc etc in any possible world but I'll just keep watching in case something interesting happens'. You ride your horse over a 150 foot drop, fall into a tree, and survive. You travel downstream in an icy river in your fur coat and don't drown/freeze. You manage to light a fire even when you are 9/10ths dead, there are no branches and you're flint went a few scenes ago. What a relief when the baddie is finally left to his fate, but then you realise you've just wasted 2 hours of your life.
Go and see this movie. In the cinema. As soon as possible.
Simply put, it is an excellent story of family, revenge, survival, and nature.
The Revenant is one of the most beautifully-shot films I have ever seen. I lost count of how many scenes I sat there in utter amazement, which is undoubtedly due to the brilliant directing and spectacular cinematography: there's no shaky-cam, no quick-cut editing, and a lot of incredibly complex shots which appear to have been completed in a single take. If all films were shot similarly to how the Revenant is, then the movie industry would drastically improve.
The entire cast did a phenomenal job and they all deserve recognition for their performances; however, if Leonardo DiCaprio doesn't win an Oscar for his breathtaking portrayal of Glass then that will be the single biggest injustice of the year.
Do not miss the opportunity to see this masterpiece on the big screen!
UPDATE: I've read an unnerving amount of other user's reviews complaining about the plot. I can understand that the plot may seem a little basic or perhaps lacking at times; however, the plot is not what makes this film so excellent, and I feel as though those who failed to recognise this have seriously missed out. You don't just watch the Revenant: you experience it. Every single element from the music to the cinematography is cleverly concocted to draw you into the film and put you alongside the cast in the brutal wintry conditions. If you've not been drawn in due to being too concerned with the premise of the story, then I fear you've missed a truly enthralling and one-of-a-kind cinematic experience.
UPDATE TWO: Leo won the Oscar!
I went to see "The Revenant" on the day that it was nominated for 12
Oscars, which certainly sets the expectation that it is going to be
good and it is. But I saw it described by DiCaprio as an "epic
art-house western" and that's a good description. In the same way that
Iñárritu's "Birdman" (this time last year) was unarguably a brilliant
but not very mainstream film, so I think the Oscar buzz will attract a
big audience to this movie who may find it a struggle to really enjoy.
Because it is bleak
unremittingly bleak, in terms of the landscape,
the weather and the motives of the characters. It is also extremely
violent but, unlike "The Hateful Eight" (another film I saw this week
that was unremittingly bleak) the violence is much more gritty,
realistic and visceral making the drama a lot more compelling.
DiCaprio plays "Hugh Glass", an historical figure who was a legendary fur-trapper in the early 1800's and the central figure in this bear-related yarn. Although the story has been re-embroidered over the years, the 'facts' align with the film's basic story (there's a good "Daily Telegraph" article outlining this - see the link on bob-the-movie-man.com).
Attacked and pursuing by local natives, Glass's party is striking across woodland when he is viciously attacked by a 500lb Grizzly bear. Although appearing mortally wounded, he is a highly respected individual and so is stretchered up by his boss Captain Henry (Domhnall Gleeson). Unable to proceed further, Henry pays for the mercenary John Fitzgerald (Tom Hardy) to stay with him, together with his half-Pawnee son Hawk and friend Bridger (Will Poulter), to die in peace. Predictably, Fitzgerald is not to be trusted, and Glass is abandoned in a shallow grave. If this is not enough, for other reasons we won't go into, Glass has even less inclination to keep his fellow trapper on his Christmas card list. Thus is set up a classic revenge movie, with Glass determined to stay alive to enact that revenge despite the enormous odds stacked against him.
This is surely DiCaprio's year for his elusive Oscar as he turns in a cripplingly painful performance. It is clear that the suffering on screen is not all acting it cannot be, given the inhospitable conditions in which the crew were filming (in Canada and Argentina). As examples he had to eat raw bison liver as well as suffering a much discussed Han "I thought they smelled bad on the outside" Solo moment. Despite having very few lines to deliver, DiCaprio is on screen for 90% of the time, and it is a bravura performance.
Tom Hardy also Oscar nominated is also impressive as the villain of the piece, although for most of the time his lines might have well been delivered through his Bain mask for the sense they made. He is an inveterate mumbler.
Domhnall Gleeson's performance is also compelling, adding a degree of goodness and compassion to the film that was so missing from "The Hateful 8". (Gleeson is surely vying this year with Ben Whishaw for the busiest mainstream film appearances after this, "Ex Machina", "Brooklyn" and "Star Wars"). Finally Will Poulter gets a chance to shine in an A-grade mainstream dramatic movie and he well and truly makes that grade.
Director Alejandro G. Iñárritu has to be commended for eschewing the use of green screens, insisting on live performances and in natural light to boot. Stylistically (and indeed story-wise) the film has many parallels with "Gladiator", with its effective and artistically constructed dream sequences. But the film is not without special effects, and these are phenomenal, most incredibly delivered during the relentless and gruelling bear attack scene: a seamless blend of live animal work and effects that make it horrifically believable.
There is also some fantastic camera work (by Emmanuel Lubezki) of the "how the hell did they do that variety". Recalling his work in "Birdman" it's challenging to do single tracking shots of people walking through buildings. To do these same tracking shots during a pitched battle scene is just phenomenal. During one scene in this harrowing sequence at the film's start, the camera is on the ground filming a native galloping towards a victim, then the camera is seamlessly filming the rider as he gallops away. Astonishing.
The only area I really didn't care for was the music, by Carsten Nicolai and Ryuichi Sakamoto. A combination of droning strings and (later) some whiny "Ligeti-style" elements, it was in turns intrusive, gloomy and annoying. Music should largely stay in the background to set the mood. This didn't.
Overall, this is a masterful film, but it is a slog and not a feel-good film to sit through. It also has significant violence which might not suit all viewers, with the final confrontation in particular being one of the most visceral fight scenes I've seen in years.
By the way (I had to look it up) the definition of "revenant" is:
1. a person who returns
2. a person who returns as a spirit after death; ghost.
Now you know too this public service announcement brought to you by One Mann's Movies! (Please visit the graphical version of this review at http://bob-the-movie-man.com. Thanks.)
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I cannot believe how many people think this is a good movie....watching a guy struggle to survive for 2 hours ...come on people..I know there are not many good movies being made but my word....so many things are unbelievable...the bear attack, carrying a near dead guy out of the wilderness up a mountain...going over a cliff on a horse and not getting hurt...spending long periods of time in freezing cold water.....surviving extreme cold overnight inside a dead horse...my god the list is endless....and for Leo's so called acting don't get me started...a lot of crawling and moaning and groaning....the whole thing was a letdown and really a waste of time...also tell the director to back the camera up a bit on those facial close-ups...they were also ridiculous...trust me save your money and go see The Hateful Eight.
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