Revenant, The (2015)

Reviewed By Greg Ursic
Posted 01/08/16 15:06:14

"Love may find a way, but revenge will get you there."
4 stars (Worth A Look)

Let’s be real, the most traumatizing part of most people’s day is when they lose their data connection while sitting in traffic trying to watch a cat video. For frontiersman, every day was fraught with real challenges; would they have enough to eat, or catch some debilitating disease and would their livestock make it through the winter? But even they had it easy compared to the nomads who ventured deep into the wilderness to eke out a living.

An expedition to collect furs is cut short by the arrival of Arikara natives on the warpath and the trappers must abandon their bounty in favor of survival. Hugh Glass (Leonardo Di Caprio) the group’s guide, sets out solo to scout the way back to the fort only to be set upon by a grizzly and mauled nearly to death. After days of struggling with the stretcher bound Glass the captain asks for two volunteers to sit with soon-to-be corpse and give him a proper burial. John (Tom Hardy), a hard man, bitter over his recent financial losses agrees to the job, but tries to expedite the dying process, and in doing so helps Glass tap into his last reservoir of strength that will feed him on his 200 mile journey of revenge.

Revenant is hands down one of the most gorgeous films of the past several years; and cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki doesn’t waste a single panoramic vista that he’s presented with, imbuing them with an almost ethereal quality (there are times when you question whether the landscapes have been CGI’d as they look almost too perfect). But it’s not all about travel video shots; the natural grace is balanced by a host of horrific images.

During the massacre by the Ree, every man who gets a close-up is rapidly and nastily dispatched is visceral detail. And yet these scenes are easier to watch than the prolonged in-your-face grizzly attack –which, accompanied by the sounds of bones being crunched - looks real and reminds what can happen when you’re not at the top of the food chain (even the most jaded filmgoer may find themselves viewing this scene through laced fingers…). It’s important to note that these scenes aren’t simply intended to shock, but to provide a dose of realism.

Tom Hardy is excellent as John, the villain of the piece, crafting a multi-layered performance (fitting giving the many levels of makeup he has to wear). Hardy is so convincing in his reasoning that you almost begin to feel that he’s justified in his character’s despicable methods. Almost. Leonardo Di Caprio also delivers a riveting performance, however it is his ability to convey emotion and pain without speaking that draws you in. The quiet moments prove a little too frequent though.

When there is no action on screen the film definitely has a tendency to drag, and Alejandro G. Inarritu’s decision to add a subplot to explain the native’s rage feels like a PC decision (surely they’ve had to endure enough without the plot device that’s provided). The other distraction is Inarritu’s efforts to channel Terence Malick and embrace spiritualism on screen which feels forced and borders on silly.

The Revenant is a revenge/redemption piece painted in broad strokes; an odd combination of beauty and brutality it features a talented cast that fans of grandiose cinema will surely appreciate.

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