The Revenant (2015)
dir. Alejandro Gonzalez Innaritu
written by: Mark Smith, Alejandro Gonzalez Innaritu
starring: Leonardo DiCaprio, Tom Hardy, Domnhall Gleeson, Will Poulter, Forrest Goodluck
3.5 out of 4 stars
Alejandro Gonzalez Innaritu has impressed me with everything he’s done. I saw Babel during the awards buzz it garnered in 2006, excited for the world spanning storyline and noteworthy performances from Adriana Barraza and Rinko Kikuchi, along with big name stars Brad Pitt, Cate Blanchett, and my love at the time (and still) Gael Garcia Bernal. Soon after, I caught up on Amores Perros and 21 Grams, and though I’ve missed Biutiful, my appreciation for Birdman has only increased since getting swept up in that wonderful experience last year. Those three Oscar wins decided to merge to become this year’s bear attack revenge drama that everyone is going to see.
With the starpower of the Oscar destined Leonardo DiCaprio and nominated ubiquitous action man Tom Hardy, this testosterone driven survival film arose with a ruckus, nabbing Golden Globes, ample memes, AIG’s best box office results, already tripling the success of Birdman, and 12 Oscar nominations. The Revenant, loosely based on a novel loosely based on real events, finds Hugh Glass (DiCaprio) and his half Native American son Hawk (Forrest Goodluck, quiet but present in a disappointingly lacking role) have joined a group of trackers following their tribe’s demise years previous. Following an ambush from a tribe seeking the chief’s daughter and a brutal bear attack, the diminished group is forced to leave behind two men, Fitzgerald (Hardy) and Bridger (Will Poulter, a very scared performance) by their captain (Domnhall Gleeson, continuing his strong year) who betray him. An arduous, brutally violent–Tarantino without the exaggerated blood hue–, and overly long battle for revenge follows.
This movie appears to be Alejandro G Innaritu and Emmanuel Lubeski, together again after Birdman, have stretched their legs to see what fun they can have and how miserable they can make their actors. The script is forgettable and aggravating, so disappointing pairing AIG and the writer of Vacancy which I barely remembered existed; there are too many plots that barely intertwine. Some needed cut, others reassigned. The portrait of Native Americans was also lacking. Though seeking the lost daughter, their aim is singular but poorly guided and sporadically placed. Leo has all the meaning and excessive closeups; why not pass along some of the focus?
Though the story’s progression is tedious and savage, blending with the style of the film, the production is a thing of immense talent and great care. The locations scouted through the frozen landscapes provide the most gorgeous scenery of the North American continent. Lubeszki shoots them with low, natural light to spectacular results. He has produced ample better individual shots, but the technology and extended scenes remind of his brilliance; he is my favorite man working in movies. The additional scenes, whether found (dilapidated church) or built (the fort)–both assumptions–, match the gruesome surroundings of these vengeful men.
Jacqueline Durran, costume designer of The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, collected a mass of hides to create distinct, weathered hunting gear reading to be torn and destroyed through the wilderness. A definite surprise on Oscar nomination morning, the outdoor gear not to be found in REI is intricate and handsome in this high definition picture. The sound is additional vital, popping out roars, gunshots, shouts, and fire in equal measures of importance. The true production stars are Judy the bear and her computer animated collection of forest friends and the impending makeup results they create that steal the show. Surprisingly realistic, the bear mauling is a close up of a bear that one would nearly expect was there, bouncing on Leo’s back. The claws are right up front, and it’s enough to make you avoid the trees for a good while. The scars and puss, scalping wounds, and missing skin that change scene to scene are nearly indecipherable between which is real and which is computer animated, but either way, it’s impressive and skin crawling.
Leonardo DiCaprio and Tom Hardy holds the meatiest roles of the bunch. Hardy is a grumbling Southerner. Immoral and self-serving, he reminds of a fur laden Merle Dixon. Maintaining that accent and gruff demeanor, Hardy is an apt protagonist, nothing surprising from an actor who made his breakout as Charles Bronson. DiCaprio is committed to this role. Despite the bashing for his post-production complaints, this was an arduous shoot, and I’m sure he’s had more enjoyable ones. He does everything, and he gives everything. Quantity of facial expressions surely does not spell greatness, and this is certainly not his strongest role, but DiCaprio escapes the curse of being too recognizable to blend into this frontiersman role.
For a divisive movie that is hard to watch, the movie is powerful but unquestionably slow and drawn out. Strong performances and overzealous direction and cinematography make this the spectacle of the winter–and before anyone says it, Star Wars was the delight of the winter. Joining Gravity and Life of Pi as films honored more for ambition and execution rather than excellence in narrative, The Revenant is a big film with big names and big talents doing as they please.