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The Revenant: The Most Ambitious Film of 2015

December 5, 2015

The Revenant Movie Poster

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The Revenant is a sweeping story of revenge, tragedy and chaos. It plays like The Grey met The New World and  teamed up with Blood Meridian and Gravity. The book adaptation is a bonkers tale of survival that features some of the most beautiful images of 2015. After watching the film you understand why we’ve heard countless stories about the difficulty of the nine month shoot. You feel the cold and the crew must have been miserable when creating this spectacle. I guarantee that aside from Mad Max: Fury RoadThe Revenant is the most ambitious piece of film making of 2015.

Tom Hardy

Nobody had to “act” cold in The Revenant.

What makes The Revenant stand apart from other films are its focus on show stopping moments. You get the feeling it was built around a few key scenes and after reading what director Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu had to say I understand why. In an interview with Deadline  Inarritu talked about his style of filming.

“It was planned this way, to be little-by-little jewel moments; that’s the way I designed the production. That was both to create intensity in this moments, as well as the climate conditions. We are shooting in such remote far-away locations that, by the time we arrive and have to return, we have already spent 40% of the day. But those locations are so gorgeous and so powerful, they look like they have never been touched by a human being, and that’s what I needed. The light is very reduced here in winter, and we are not shooting with any electrical lighting, just natural light. And every single scene is so difficult — emotionally, technically. I’ve gotten myself in trouble again, but I’m trying my best,”

This may sound crazy but the focus on “jewel moments” took away from the flow of the movie. Every moment is perfectly filmed and the barren locations aide the danger but I have a feeling that Inarritu let the film get away from him. I feel like Innaritu wanted to do his best Terrence Malick and still provide the big action beats. I am not saying that The Revenant is a disappointment. It is incredibly ambitious and captures ugliness surrounded by beautiful vistas. However, in its desire to showboat the narrative becomes disjointed and not entirely organic. There are movies with disjointed narratives that are absolute classics. Movies like Apocalypse Now, The New World, The Assassination of  Jessie James by the Coward Robert Ford, The Wild Bunch and the book Blood Meridian don’t follow ABC structures but they are damn near perfect and feature suitable character moments.

The story revolves around a group of animal trappers  who might have the worst job on the planet. The trappers are a rough crew who have exiled themselves in order to make good money for dangerous work. The work is treacherous and they are constantly under attack from an understandably annoyed group of native Americans. After a vicious attack the group is separated and a guide named Hugh Glass (Leonardo DiCaprio) gets viciously attacked by a bear. The crew try to carry him but with the threat of Indian attack they leave Glass behind with his son and loose canon trapper  John Fitzgerald (Tom Hardy). Thing go awry and it becomes a story of revenge and survival.

The actors had to endure nine months of acting in inhospitable climates and you can tell they were all in. There are moments when you are wondering how they didn’t suffer from frostbite or were plagued with disease. Leonardo DiCaprio, Tom Hardy, Domhnall Gleeson and Will Poulter are perfectly cast and you have to respect their respect of the insane filming process.

The Revenant Leo Dicaprio

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The buzz around DiCaprio’s performance  is warranted and it will be hard for voters to not remember him come awards time. DiCaprio growls, crawls and stumbles around in an exhausting manner. He layers his performance with believable physicality and holds his own against the always intimidating Tom Hardy. Hardy’s Fitzgerald is a force of nature that is equal parts terrible and understandable. He is a person who wants to survive and has seen more violence than any man should. You believe he could survive in the wilderness and has no problem doing whatever he can to live. I was happy to see Domhnall Gleeson featured heavily as an out of his league Captain named Andrew Henry. He wants to do the right thing but doesn’t command the respect of the killers around him.

The Revenant is an incredibly ambitious and powerful film. My only complaint is how disjointed it feels. It wants to be Malick but have its violent cake too. It is the vision of one man and that needs to be respected. However, I found myself comparing it to other films and finding myself taken out of the narrative. The Revenant is a visual marvel that lacks the necessary original character moments to make me become invested in the characters.

I 100% recommend you check it out in the theaters because ambitious and beautifully shot films like this don’t come around very often.

 

 

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. John Leavengood permalink
    September 18, 2016 6:53 pm

    Watching this now and feeling inner turmoil over Hardy’s character.
    But OMG the GORGEOUS shots that fill this movie–WOW!

  2. John Leavengood permalink
    September 18, 2016 7:11 pm

    I’m at 1:55:00 into the film–
    I had never considered using a field-dressed horse carcass as an in-the-buff sleeping bag on a cold night. Noted. Very resourceful, Leo.

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