A frontiersman on a fur trading expedition in the 1820s fights for survival after being mauled by a bear and left for dead by members of his own hunting team.
Director: Alejandro G. Inarritu
Starring: Leonardo DiCaprio, John Hardy, Domhnall Gleeson, Will Poulter, Lukas Haas, Forrest Goodluck, Paul Anderson
Rated: R (strong frontier combat and violence including gory images, a sexual assault, language and brief nudity)
By Cole Schneider
Defending Oscar champ, Alejandro Inarritu (“Birdman”) returns with another cinematically showy picture that strains for an emotional connection amongst its characters and audience. “The Revenant” more or less has the same strengths and weaknesses as “Birdman” does, while existing as in a completely different realm. It trades that odd comic spirit for a gritty survival story wrapped in poetic images. The remarkable true story follows Hugh Glass (played by Leonardo DiCaprio in a truly committed turn) as he sets out for revenge against the man who left him for dead (brilliantly acted by Tom Hardy). It’s something like “Jeremiah Johnson” remade by Terrence Malick (“Badlands”).
Perhaps it feels like that because Inarritu’s cinematographer, Emmanuel Lubezki has worked with Malick on recent projects including another American myth, “The New World”. Lubezki is the best in the business and his visual ruminations say much more than the script. The action scenes actually recall his Oscar-winning work with Alfonso Cuaron, especially “Children of Men’. Lubezki’s talent and experience are on full display and Inarritu loves letting him loose. See “The Revenant” for the cinematography if nothing else; the bear attack alone is worth the price of admission.
Yet, as brilliant as the film is technically, Inarritu continues to struggle to flesh out his movies. At nearly three hours, the script is too inflated and portentous in the middle, features for too many manipulative flashbacks and mirages, and has essentially the same message as better films. Another unfortunate flaw in “The Revenant” is that it’s too reverent of its hero, which is a shame because with a bit more of an edge the film could have been as legendary as its hero.
4.5 out of 5 Stars
By Matt Greene
Unless you’re a sadist, The Revenant won’t make you “feel good”. Its aims are more visceral than that. Yes, the already infamous bear attack sequence is unlike anything you’ve ever seen, but that’s not all that will puncture your skin. The splash of water. The smoke of gunfire. The embers from the fire. The spit escaping from freeze-dried lips. The blood-stained rivers and snow. You feel every bit. Pulling from master filmmakers like Malick, Tarchovsky, and Kurosawa, Inarritu gives us a poetic western that, while not quite as impenetrable as its influences, still stuns with an intensity only matched by its graceful beauty.
The unbelievable story of Hugh Glass, an 1800s frontiersman left for dead in a snow-covered wasteland, is a story of endurance. But unlike this year’s Martian, which celebrated hard-science as a means of survival, Revenant is focuses on sheer force of will. The trials Glass suffers are abandoned with intensity, and DiCaprio gives an unrelentingly committed performance. However, the real star is director of photography Emmauel Lubezki (Birdman, Gravity), who delivers a shockingly graceful look at a merciless subject. Fluid, gritty, and focused, we’re given a beautiful 360-degree view of the treacherous snow-scape.
Director Innaritu doesn’t give us quite the full scope of character that Lubezki does of visuals. The dialogue is passable at best, and clichéd and ham-fisted at worst. This made the 156 minutes drag some, especially in the middle. Luckily, the strength of the themes still comes through: despite whom or what we encounter, our only true enemy is death. Bleak? Sure…but Revenant rises above its misery as a lesson in fearless filmmaking.
4 out of 5 Stars