The Revenant
Walking out of the theater, I was completely exhausted. A very "crass" and visually stunning masterpiece. Some problems with the storyline and the pacing are outweighed by the amazing cinematography from mastermind Lubezki and a pretty sure bet on Leo's (finally) first Academy Award
Acting
Directing
Cinematography
Script
Timeless
The Good
  • Amazing shots of landscape, temperature, suffering and endurance
  • Brutal acting job masterfully done by DiCaprio and Hardy
  • Unbelievable fighting scenes
The Bad
  • Unclear storyline (until half way through)
  • Takes a little too long to get to the point
  • In order to effectively display the pain, it repeats itself at times
4.1Overall Score

The Oscar 2016 nominees are out and I am going to put #OscarSoWhite-Gate aside for now and try to just focus on my goal at hand – watch an immensely large amount of movies (15!) come February, 28 – no. 1 was Leonardo DiCaprio’s umpteenth shot at the golden statue with Alejandro G. Iñárritu’s (I still can’t spell his name properly) adaption of the true story of Hugh Glass – The Revenant.

A frontiersman on a fur trading expedition in the 1820’s fights for survival after being mauled by a bear and left for dead by members of his own hunting team. (imdb.com)

Before going into the movie, I did not know anything about the true story behind Hugh Glass and thus the entire plot of the movie (which was good for not being spoiled but non-ideal to understand the backstory). Now, as I sit here starting to write, I have a hard time to wrap my head around the entire movie and so I will simply tell you what I liked and what I didn’t like.

Beautiful Art of Filmmaking

Iñárritu’s steady hand and the unbelievable cinematography of Emmanuel Lubezki – who also shot Birdman and Gravity just to name a few – already make this film a stunning visual experience. Not only the beautiful shots of the landscape (vast mountains, cold forests and wild rivers) but also the capture of bleak winter months was plain amazing. Aside from that, the fight scenes (and there are many) were just unbelievable – already starting with the opening massacre between the Native American tribe and the crew around Hugh Glass felt like a rollercoaster – fast, violent and gorgeous. So many times during this film, I looked over to my wife with a face of disbelief: “They did not just show this???” – at that moment, she had wrapped her jacked around her face and had a similar facial expression. But after the film, we both said things like: “Do you remember that scene where we both basically wanted to run out of the theater – wasn’t that so awesome and beautifully shot?”

Painful method acting

A lot has been talked about the numerous Oscar snubs for DiCaprio despite his unbelievable amounts of stellar performances – I just recently watched The Departed again and he is just so unbelievably good in that one – but that is a different story. This time, he probably thought if I go on screen and:

  • get mauled by a grizzly bear,
  • swim through ice cold water with a fur,
  • gut and sleep inside dead horse (which I totally got from Han Solo),
  • rob through ice and
  • grunt but don’t speak for most of the movie,

the Academy may have no other chance but to finally give me this darn Oscar statue. I don’t even want to start imagine of what DiCaprio does next if he looses to a danish Girl or a botanist on Mars.

Iñárritu has stated in many interviews that he wanted this film to be as real as possible. And in his desire for “realism”, the crew and mainly “poor” DiCaprio had to endure a cold and brutal shoot in the mountains of Canada. And the movie basically mounts to watching 156 minutes of seeing DiCaprio suffer all sorts of pain and resurrect from the dead – grunting, bleeding, limping and freezing. And don’t get me wrong, I am a huge DiCaprio fan and him being awarded an Oscar is long overdue. To a certain extent however, I struggle with awarding the capture of reverence and fear without almost any form of dialogue. Aside from mentioning only DiCaprio, I believe that it is fair to say that Tom Hardy also delivers a stellar performance and shows what kind of a versatile actor he is.

Slow story development

Here it comes, my biggest problem with the film – the development of the story and the pacing. Understandably, the movie “has” to be long because it is imperative to show the struggle and the longevity of Glass’s journey from being almost dead to coming back to life purely driven by the lust for revenge. Having said that, I had walked into this film with zero knowledge about Hugh Glass and the movie doesn’t do a great job in providing the audience with any context: Who are these people? What are they doing? Where are they going and why the f*** are they out in the cold? Over an hour into the movie, the plot becomes clear to me: this will be a story about revenge and how somebody can have the grit to stay alive purely driven by the motivation of avenging his loved one. But to me, there were points in the movie where all I could “enjoy” was the shooting and the cinematography but I was kind of bored by the story which repeatedly went on to show the grunting struggle of Hugh Glass to get ahead despite of every possible setback. Again I understand the need for a long movie due to the subject matter but at times it did not fully resonate with me.

In the end …

I walked out of the theater and was exhausted – now is that a good sign? I guess you could say that, the movie was certainly very “crass” – it went to show things nobody has dared to show before and it is a truly its own category of Adventure, Drama and Western. The cinematography was yet again second to none and just plain incredible – and I believe that outweighs the shortcomings in the development and pacing of the storyline. It is certainly worth to see this film as long as it in theaters but one thing is for sure I will not watch this movie ever again.

One Response

  1. Alex

    Good job! As always I don’t agree with everything. 😉 I don’t agree with your point about the storyline. I thought it was quiet clear and it was a no brainer, that tom hardy is the antagonist and is going to kill leos son. It was also really clear why white people are there and why not white people are pissed. I missed some remarks about how intense the movie was, so the opposite of boring. You also forgot to mention the gollum eating fish reference.

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