Director: Alejandro G. Iñárritu // Year of release: 2015 // Running time: 2h 36min
Cast: Leonardo DiCaprio, Tom Hardy, Domnhall Gleeson, Will Poulter… // Watch the trailer
Seen in February 2016
Log Line (from IMDb)
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.
Most hyped movie of 2015 (excluding Star Wars VII)? I feel like I’ve been hearing about this film for ever, how the shooting process was so hard on the cast and crew, how they shot only in natural light, how there’s a bear, a dead horse and a bison liver, how DiCaprio did all sorts of crazy things for the character, how Tom Hardy had to drop out of Suicide Squad because The Revenant‘s shooting schedule was completely erratic and unpredictable… Plus all the Oscar buzz. By the time the movie was released in France (24th Feb), I had heard so much about it that I didn’t know if I wanted to see it anymore.
In the end, I am very glad I did see it in a movie theatre, because this film is stunning. It is just so darn beautiful to look at. The remote locations and the decision to shoot only with natural light was sure to be a pain in the ass for everyone involved, but I’d like to think that it was worth it. The cinematography enhances the scenery like you’ve never seen on screen before. It is breathtaking.
At the beginning of the film Iñárritu uses some of the same techniques that he used on Birdman (which I was worried would carry for the entire movie, but thankfully, it did not). There is a scene in particular at the very start that looks like it was an absolute nightmare to choreograph and shoot, but it is great. The process is used another time, still in the beginning, without much purpose, and then it seemed like this way of directing was abandoned in favour of a more “conventional” way of filming. Something I did notice throughout the film was the transitions from a scene to another. They were really well done and quite clever. I really enjoyed them.
The acting is stellar. There’s really no actor that I thought was less successful than another. DiCaprio, Hardy, Gleeson, Poulter, RedCloud… Great all around. I wrote a little bit of what I think of DiCaprio’s chances at the Oscars in my initial review on Letterboxd if you’re interested, but the gist of it is: I’m sceptical. We’ll know in a few hours if I was right or not.
It seems to me that the movie was heavily marketed as a revenge story of a father wanting to find his son’s murderer. At least that’s the part that I have heard the most. And I think it is very misleading. To me, it really wasn’t at the core of the movie, but rather, survival was, as was the timeless notion of “man versus nature” and what a man is willing to endure to live.
I actually didn’t know this when I went to see the movie, but this is the true story of Hugh Glass, who was attacked by a bear, left for dead by two of his crew members, and then crawled (yes, crawled) over 300km to get back to camp and his team. In some respects, the true story was more interesting than the one pictured in the film. Hugh Glass never had a family. Once I learned that, it made more sense to me because I actually didn’t really buy the father/son relationship in the movie, and the whole added-on story about Glass losing his family really felt like that: an add-on.
And the revenge angle felt weak as well. It’s never really said or shown for a good 70% of the movie that Glass actually wants to get revenge on the men who abandoned him, or more specifically the man who murdered his son. We see that quite late into the movie.
One other thing that I think is too bad: I understand the movie better now that I’m home and doing research on Hugh Glass and watching featurettes. During the movie, I didn’t know who those men were, what they were doing, what were the French doing there, what year it was… I understand that you don’t need to tell everything about what you see on screen, but I don’t know, a little card at the beginning saying “1823, North Dakota” or something could have been helpful. As a result, I didn’t really care about the story or the characters, because I didn’t know what their purpose was.
Originally I gave The Revenant 4/5 stars because of Emmanuel Lubezki’s photography and the great locations. But the more I think about it, the more I think I didn’t really like the movie. I didn’t hate it, I just didn’t care all that much. It wreaks of Oscar envy and it ended up being annoying to a certain degree. I actually would rather see Spotlight win Best Picture, George Miller win Best Director (for Mad Max: Fury Road), and Roger Deakins win Best Cinematography (for Sicario).
I really wasn’t that concerned with the revenge story. The guilt of Will Poulter’s character was almost more interesting and compelling to me.