The Revenant. BAM! Pretty great film. Up for a bunch of awards. It’s one of the most beautiful films of the year, features some really great performances and made a lot of good decisions in writing and directing.
The Revenant was made by Alejandro Gonzales Inarittu. If I’m not pronouncing that right, I’m so sorry. Hot off last years Academy Award for best director, he’s directed yet another film worthy of a nomination.
The plot essentially centers around Hugh Glass, a scout for a hunting party in 1823. After a vicious attack by Native Americans, the traders escape and begin their return to their fort when suddenly Leo DiCaprio gets completely destroyed by a Grizzly bear. His mangled caracas is left in the wilderness with his son and Fitzgerald, played by Tom Hardy, oh and some kid is there too I guess. Fitzgerald kills Glass’s son and leaves him for dead. Glass decided to pull through his horrible mangling to find and brutally murder Fitzgerald.
What I liked
This is probably the best looking movie of the year, considering this is the same year as a Tarantino film, that’s quite the compliment. Shot on a digital camera in the middle of a frozen tundra, the shots they were able to achieve in this location are stunning. They were also able to really well execute that scene where Leo gets destroyed by a bear. There’s other horrible murder in the film that looks really great as well.
The shooting style of putting the camera in the middle of the action made it seem much more nerve-wracking to sit through. This helped a lot with the immersion of the time period. The film looks very gritty and organic which contributes to themes as well. The cinematography does a lot to service the story as well as doing a lot on it’s own.
Both Leo and Tom Hardy give good performances. Maybe this will be the film that finally wins Leo the Oscar so everyone can shut the fuck up about it. Who knows? Honestly, I felt that Leo did a lot of great facial acting because he has little to no dialogue. Tom Hardy on the other hand, like many times in the past, became his character really well. His eyes are amazing. He finds such an interesting way to emote that really lends well to film. Domhall Gleeson is also in the film and gives a great performance with the little he really has to do.
Thematically, the film covers a lot of elements. The film acts as sort of a debate between nature and humanity. There’s a moment where Fitzgerald talks about his father finding God in the woods that turns out to be a squirrel, then he eats it. Alternatively the film makes a lot of claims about nature and God. This kid in the movie is carving the symbol for Pantheism into a canteen. For those that don’t know, basically pantheism refers to nature as being God.
The film is a constant fight between men and the elements, men and each other, and a respect for nature over a respect for business and survival. There’s a reflective nature to Leo getting ruined by the bear and how he overpowers Fitzgerald at the end. There is a prevalence of the statement “revenge is left up to god, not man.” This implies that no matter what men’s actions are, nature still dictates how the events play out.
So Fitzgerald, a man who seems to think he’s conquered nature, goes up against Glass, a man who literally conquers nature to enact revenge. Had the events not played out in the exact way they did, involving a young Native American girl, he wouldn’t have gotten his revenge. So this contributes to the theme that no matter how much it seems Men have conquered nature, nature ultimately holds all the power.
One of the big highlights in this film is it’s presentation. Presentation typically refers to how a film conveys it’s message. There’s a perfect blend here of background images and events that you can read into without coming right out and telling you what to think. As I stated earlier, the themes are conveyed in dialogue without being too on the nose while the back ground images and symbols assist the conveyance of these themes. There’s a moment where a bird flys out of someone’s open wound ala The Holy Mountain and this is a nice way of conveying the spirit of nature in the film.
The screenplay is very tight and minimal on dialogue which makes the characters struggles appear to us visually and add to the sense of isolation in the atmosphere.
The grittiness of the look of the film really lend to the time period and a sense of unhealthiness we see in Leo’s character and how realistic the violence feels. At the same time, the film beckons the watcher to consider these themes by drawing a lot of attention to itself a couple times. Fogging up and having blood splatter on the lenses well as the last shot where Leo looks us right in the eyes as if to say “have we bested nature?” And even if my interpretation is wrong, the point is, it worked dramatically and drew attention to itself telling us as an audience to relate to it. And speaking of presentation…
What I didn’t like
1. Ridiculous Presentation
Some elements of the film’s presentation I couldn’t really get behind. Leo takes a giant tumble off a cliff and lands in a tree and survives. I mean, I know that’s possible but after all the other things that happen to him, I felt it wasn’t necessary to the already extremely long runtime. Usually as a director you want things to work dramatically first and logically second but things can’t dive too off the deep end and I felt like there were a couple moments that didn’t derail the movie but got a bit close.
I feel like some liberties could have been taken with the source material to either cut that down or replace it with a different sequence that both conveyed the same dramatic presentation and were still grounded in a bit of a reality. The fact that a man so horribly broken wouldn’t even get hurt from that tumble is completely ridiculous.
2. Motion Blur
While I really liked the way the cinematography was used, I had a couple qualms early on with the way the camera moved. There were moments when I knew they probably had to set the shot up for slow motion later in the sequence but the shutter speed was a bit dizzying and different from the shooting style of other moments in the film. Most of this was during the opening battle sequences and drifted off as time went on.
So in conclusion, I really liked this film. It conveyed it’s themes well, looked great, had great performances and gives you a lot to think about. It’s not nearly as good as Birman but it shows that Inarittu can really handle a period piece with a lot of moving parts.
1. Film vs Digital
I find it interesting that two of the best shot films this year really solidify the debate between film and digital. The Hateful Eight was shot on 65mm and presented in 70mm and looks amazing as well. But in comparison, I feel the film camera moves better and looks warmer, but the digital look offers a lot of versatility in post-production, which is evident by the usage of color correction in The Revenant. It’s a hard decision to choose between the two but it is easy to say that digital has come a long way.
We’re also at awards season, which I don’t care about at all, but as far as this years best movies go, I think The Revenant has a real shot at Best Picture. It has some decent competition but I feel like there’s a good chance this will win.
So thanks for watching guys, if you like what you see, drop a like. Did you like the movie, did you like seeing Leo get wrecked by a bear, lemme know below. Follow me on all my social media which you can find in the description and support my channel on Patreon if you love my content.
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