Friday, January 29, 2016

The Revenant - Movie Review

The Revenant, directed by Alejandro G. Iñárritu, is a movie based on and inspired by real events. The film features acting performances by Leonardo DiCaprio, Tom Hardy, Domhnall Gleeson, Will Poulter, Forrest Goodluck, Paul Anderson, Kristoffer Joner, Lukas Haas, and Grace Dove.

The Story:
A group of fur traders runs into trouble and ends up on the run from a local tribe searching for their leader's kidnapped daughter. As they make their escape, Hugh Glass (DiCaprio), the expedition's guide, is attacked and nearly killed by a bear and then left for dead. Slowly recovering over a harsh winter in the wilderness, Glass is determined to find the man (Hardy) who set him up and buried him alive so he can exact his revenge.

The Review:
Alejandro G. Iñárritu proves once again why he is one of the best directors working today with a film that is visually stark and brutal yet extremely compelling even with very little dialog from a cast led by two heavyweight actors. The movie was filmed by acclaimed cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki who also worked with Iñárritu on Birdman as well as with Alfonso Cuarón on both Gravity and Children of Men. One of his specialties is the use of extended takes (long tracking shots with no cuts or edits) which I absolutely love and wish more film makers would make standard practice. I hope this duo continues to work together for years to come as they have now put together two of the best films of the last two years. One of the more impressive and interesting things about how this movie was filmed is that they used 100% natural lighting for every single shot. Nothing is enhanced and this also required some scenes to only be shot one time so they absolutely had to get them right.

Another thing I learned about the filming process is how Lubezki used all digital cameras as a lot of the shots would not have turned out or looked good if he had used film and especially in low light situations. Lubezki has said he preferred the pristine clarity of digital for this picture over the grainy nature of film because of how raw and visceral every scene is and he was able to draw out so much more depth and emotion, details that would have otherwise been lost in the process. I really feel like this was a huge benefit as the resulting images really put you right there inside each moment with the actors during the most extreme circumstances. Thinking back on what the cast and crew must have endured while filming this movie is quite the achievement unto itself but then to pull out such an amazing piece of cinema just puts it over the top.

Leonardo DiCaprio has had so many great performances, I'm not quite sure where this one ranks although it would have to be placed towards the top mainly because of what was asked of him both physically and mentally. As I mentioned before, there isn't much dialog so most of what you hear from DiCaprio is grunting, screaming, crying, and aching from everything his character is put through and it's pretty obvious he gives everything to every moment of screen time that he has. Tom Hardy is impressive, as he always is, but in a completely different way. He is so good into totally transforming himself into a character the likes of which you have most likely never seen before and comes out with a performance that you just can't take your eyes off of. Hardy's character in this movie is sort of an odd personality and has an undercurrent of danger and intimidation that is more than a bit unnerving and he is the perfect opposing force to DiCaprio's man who is on a mission to exact what he feels is justified and honorable revenge.

The Verdict:
The Revenant is a great film although not without its flaws. I understand you're supposed to come out of the theater feeling exhausted from the experience, but there were a few points where my friend and I were both like, okay let's get on with it, this is a bit much so two and a half hours is a bit much for this type of film. That being said, this is one of the more entertaining and well crafted movies I have seen this year and I am sure it will do very well when all the year end awards are handed out.


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