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So as you know, I stopped writing lengthy reviews on this site this year, keeping the blog as more of a film diary of sorts.  Lo and behold,...

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Movie Review - The Revenant

The Revenant (2015)
Starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Tom Hardy, Domhnall Gleeson, Will Poulter, and Forrest Goodluck
Directed by Alejandro González Iñárritu

This is a frustrating review to write.  There are so many scenes in The Revenant that I found myself loving.  So many beautifully crafted shots both visually appealing and cinematically difficult.  Such good performances that couldn't help but make me feel as if I was placed squarely in the 1820s America fur trade.  So why is director/co-screenwriter Alejandro González Iñárritu's film such a chore to sit through?  Why did I find myself checking my watch twenty minutes in...and then forty minutes in...and then an hour in...and then I had to stop myself from checking every ten minutes.  Something doesn't quite gel and while I understand the director's methodical approach in terms of helping to understand our main character's horrific plight, the film can't help but feel tedious and almost a tiny bit episodic as we simply move from one torture porn-esque scene to the next.

Inspired by a true story, The Revenant is the tale of frontiersman Hugh Glass (Leonardo DiCaprio) who is left for dead by his fellow trappers after being mauled by a bear.  While the party's Captain, Andrew Henry (Domhnall Gleeson), wants the incapacitated Hugh (who has been invaluable to the trappers) to be watched over until he passes, most men in the party (which has already been depleted due to a vicious ambush by the Arikara Indians) feel hauling Glass to safety is harming them all.  With the promise of money from the Captain, rough and hard-nosed John Fitzgerald (Tom Hardy) agrees to wait with Hugh until he dies.  The young Bridger (Will Poulter) and Hugh's half-Indian son Hawk (Forrest Goodluck) stay around with John, but they soon discover that John may be motivated more by the promise of money than keeping Hugh alive and what John does next sets a still-debilitated Hugh to seek revenge on Tom who has truly done him terribly wrong.

For the film's first forty and last twenty minutes, there's a palpable sense of excitement and tension with some of the most brutally realistic and intense fight and battle sequences since Saving Private Ryan.  Grabbing me right away, I found myself questioning the critiques I'd heard that The Revenant is a slow burner.  And then Glass is left for dead and the film just became less and less interesting story wise as Iñárritu seemingly mimics the hazy, dreamlike sequences of Terrence Malick and leaves actual plot behind.  Perhaps I'm being a little too harsh there as we're certainly given "a story" -- it's just that the episodic torturous events that Glass finds himself getting into on his trek to seek revenge on Fitzgerald begin to feel repetitive particularly seeing as how they're interspersed by endless images of babbling brooks or leafless trees or memories of his Pawnee Indian lover.

Leonardo DiCaprio is very good here and his inevitable Oscar win is at least being awarded for a quality role.  While not his most layered performance or his best (that certainly goes to the tour de force turn in The Wolf of Wall Street which I still say is one of the finest film roles I've seen in ages), he conveys everything necessary with his physicality (or lack thereof at times) which is extremely important seeing as how Hugh Glass barely talks for nearly two-thirds of the film.  Tom Hardy continues the trend of creating a difficult-to-comprehend voice for his grizzled character, but Hardy is also strong here in what may be the best role I've seen him undertake thus far.  His motivations, though certainly lacking in morals, are surprisingly understandable given the circumstances of the time and while he's absolutely in the wrong, Hardy makes his character perfectly believable.

Unfortunately, despite many good things -- the film will likely pop up in certain RyMickey Award categories -- The Revenant is simply too long and lacks excitement and momentum.  Much like last year's lauded Birdman (which I overrated with a C+), The Revenant has been incorrectly lauded by many of the Hollywood Elite.  It's got good parts, but it doesn't quite add up to a good whole which is a shame because the positives here are so darn excellent.

The RyMickey Rating:  C+

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