Alejandro González Iñárritu's follow up to the Best Picture winning 'Birdman' has finally arrived. A tale of fur trapper Hugh Glass who is left for dead in Louisiana whilst his son is murdered. 'The Revenant' is a revenge tale at heart with elements from art cinema and survival dramas. This film has been in my sights for quite some time considering 'Birdman' was an extremely well made movie and I was excited to see Iñárritu and his crew return to create this tale. However, this film is a little underwhelming and it is true that 'Birdman' was a little too tough to follow up on.
Leonardo DiCaprio portrays the protagonist Hugh Glass in his most physically demanding role that I've seen him in. It's not his best role at all, and this isn't his fault necessarily. Tom Hardy portrays the antagonist John Fitzgerald and he is as great as ever. A mean son of a bitch whom you just love to hate. Domnhall Gleeson and WIll Poulter were also standouts as Captain Henry and Jim Bridger respectively. I was very fond of Poulter in this film, I found his character and acting very humane and easy to sympathize with how he would be feeling. A very strong performance, hope to see a lot more of him.
'The Revenant' however does have some flaws which I'll address first before getting into the negatives. First and foremost, the character of Hugh Glass himself. DiCaprio tried his hardest, you can clearly see this. But he had to work with a character who merely does muffled screams and quotes lines to his son in his script. During the film I felt no feelings towards him as Glass is written as a vengeance seeking father due to the course of the film. There are attempts to fill in backstory but these clash with the tone of the film where everything is done so naturalistic whereas these flashback sequences are very surreal and non naturalistic which did not make a whole world of sense to me. The film then follows Glass trying to kill Fitzgerald for his actions and the drive for the film comes in the form of very excellent looking set pieces where DiCaprio is thrown around and battered and bruised and nearly killed on several occasions. It was like watching the Do's and Don'ts of travelling. So I found it hard to follow the main character due to a lack of character development and using extremely visceral set pieces to con the audience into feeling sorry for what he has to go through. I didn't agree with this.
Secondly, the flashback sequences. These were very, very annoying. I found that they did little to nothing to advance the story in anyway and slowed down the film whenever they came on. Thankfully, there's not a whole lot in here, but they were done so haphazardly that I couldn't work out what was going on or if I had to care or not. It presented some half ass attempt of giving Glass the backstory but ended up making it obscure for no reason. Then they never come up again and I feel like they gave you half the story of what happened.
Enough of the negatives though, let's crack on to the positives of this film. It's been one of the main selling points and thankfully it pulls through. The cinematography of course. This film is gorgeous from start to finish. I respect Emmanuel Lubezki's use of natural lighting for the whole film (minus the first scene, the sun kept blotting the camera and I felt like I was watching a homemade production.) Furthermore, the rest of the film is eye-popping beautiful and just reflects the whole films vision of cold revenge and the hostility of human nature. The singular best thing about this film that stood out to me however is how Iñárritu handled the bear scene. I won't spoil anything but this is worth the price of admission. It is intense, violent, stomach churning and just mayhem for the whole duration. I loved this scene and thought it was an absolute stand out. Brilliant work from DiCaprio here.
In retrospect, 'The Revenant' fails from a case of being the younger, less experienced sibling of Iñárritu's modern films. It tries to be bigger and better than his older brother, but alas he is not as wise or interesting. He may be better looking though. 'The Revenant' fails to make your brain tick like 'Birdman' did, but offers a compelling enough story amidst a beautiful backdrop with top notch action sequences to boot.
. Tom Hardy, Domnhall Gleeson, Will Poulter
. The cinematography
. Shooting on location
. The bear scene
. The character of Hugh Glass
. Flashback sequences
. The soundtrack
. First action scene where the sun reflects for a few shots. Highly annoying.