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The Revenant


Review #250, Movie #321



Year Of Release

2015

Director/s

Alejandro G Iñárritu

Producer/s

Arnon Milchan, Steve Golin, Alejandro G Iñárritu, Mary Parent, Keith Redmon, James W Skotchdopole

Writer/s

Mark L Smith, Alejandro G Iñárritu, Michael Punke

Music

Ryuichi Sakamoto, Alva Noto

Cast

Leonardo DiCaprio, Tom Hardy, Domhnall Gleeson, Will Poulter

Synopsis:
1823, a band of trappers lead by Captain Andrew Henry through the wilderness of America (the area later becomes known as The Dakotas).
Hugh Glass, the scout and guide for a party of trappers, is attacked and near killed by a bear. The tough and relatively brutal John Fitzgerald and youngster Jim Bridger stay behind to recoup losses from a recent Indian attack, and to also carry Hugh through the wilderness while the rest of the trappers head back to a nearby outpost. To make matters worse though, the trappers are still being stalked by the Indians.
So, with the future looking dim, Fitzgerald buries Hugh alive, with Bridger opposing the decision, and the two leave the area to escape the Indians.
What Fitzgerald didn’t realise though, is that Hugh’s resolve and will to live will be his undoing.

Review:
I bought the DVD, based on reviews and the recent hype surrounding the film.
I had to try 4 times to sit through this movie.


This isn’t the average movie of loss, brutality and revenge. It’s a beautifully photographed movie, backed up by incredibly strong acting… but that’s where the hype should have stopped.


The major problem with the film is the pacing immediately after bear attack (about 10 minutes in). The movie starts out pretty exciting with an Indian attack, then there’s the bear attack… then the movie kinda stalls for 90-110 minutes, with loads of speeches and random scenes of talking about death and the harshness of life in the early 1800s, with Hardy’s actions pitted against DiCaprio’s constant grunting and foaming at the mouth while he’s dragging his injured body around the snow covered wilderness.


Even with the great acting involved, you don’t get to care about the characters because of the pacing, and it makes the main selling point of the movie, the survivalist theme, a chore to sit through. Another let down was the constant barrage of things going wrong for our hero. It felt like a Wild West version of Gravity… if something can go wrong, it will.


There’s also the fictitious elements of the movie involving Hugh Glass’s family that kinda feels like it’s forcing some sort of faux-Dances-With-Wolves feel to the audience’s collective mind. It’s typical of Hollywood to throw in some fakery, but this faux-spirituality felt like a pointless addition tbh. In real life, Glass lived with the Pawnee Indians, and I guess it was technically easier to have that connection by throwing in a half-cast family for the character than explain that background over the course of a few hours.


The Indians on the trail of our main characters also have their own little story as to why they’re hot on the heels of the trappers… sadly, this little side story is never really realised, which is another pointless addition to the proceedings.


Pelts are also mentioned about 600 times within the first 10 minutes of the movie and then sporadically throughout too, and it gets boring almost immediately.


Once all the survivalist stuff is over with though and the road to recovery is well on its way, and the next part of the movie begins (well, the last 20 minutes or so), this is when things get a bit more interesting.
You feel like “Ok, the boring crap and the grunting are out of the way, now on with the payoff”. It pays off as well tbh, though it was almost too late after that long-winded middle in which you sit watching some characters doing some stuff, and it’s only in this last 20 minutes that you start to realise the movie has kinda panned itself out like real life. As in, nothing too fantastical going on, just a brutal survival story.


Now, although you do start to care about Hugh Glass, at least to an extent, simply because of DiCaprio’s acting, and you start to care about whether or not he’ll get his revenge after all he’s been through, it’s still hard to care much for the minor characters after the dodgy pacing of the last 90-110 minutes.


I will say though, aside from the movie being dull, it is beautifully shot. The look of the film is dirty, grimy, cold, wet, harsh and generally grey. The movie excels at making the viewer feel the harshness of the surroundings. The whole time I felt as though I had frozen toes and a stone in my shoe.
The backgrounds and wilderness settings are beautifully rendered and realistic, but another bad point comes from the filmmakers constantly throwing in revealing shots of the countryside and mountains. Just when you think something is going to happen, or when you want something to happen to move the pacing along, the camera simply pans sideways and reveals a panoramic view of the surroundings… or failing that it’s a shot of the sky… then it’s back to either DiCaprio and his grunting, or Hardy and Poulter talking about life lessons and more pelts.

As I’ve said, the acting is solid. Just a shame there’s no audience-character connection.


DiCaprio is on absolute top form. During filming, he was actually plunged into ice cold water and had to crawl around in the mud and snow. You get the impression that most of his discomfort was actually real. Some of it probably was tbh, but he makes a top impression as a guy who is in serious trouble.


Hardy is also on form, but I felt he was playing a chunk of it by the numbers. It wasn’t really a role that Hardy had to work at, and it felt as though he was just, well, there. As always with Hardy, his turn was in no way a bad one, I’ve still yet to see Hardy turn in a bad performance… it just felt like a generic villain character.


Poulter is underused though tbh as Jim Bridger. When he’s allowed to act, he does so really well, but he was pushed to the back a bit more than I’d have liked, especially when he was put next to the generic role that Hardy was cast in.


Gleeson makes a decent show though, but still wasn’t seen a huge amount. He really only comes into his own at the end, but his presence is definitely worth it.

The choreography, like the photography, is also top-notch stuff. There’s Indian attacks and Hugh Glass’s survival throughout the tough conditions and trying to heal wounds using gunpowder, the bear attack (albeit with some slightly dodgy CGI), and a big fisticuffs battle at the end too.


Some of the action throws itself back to more regular cinema too with an obligatory water rapids ride when Glass is trying to escape approaching Indians.


Some of the camera work is also fantastic. For instance there are few shots where the camera follows someone running, action going off around them, then getting on a horse, then riding fast… and camera fluently follows the action in a single take.



All in all, solidly photographed and shot, great choreography in small stints and DiCaprio is stunning… but it wasn’t worth the hype.

Exciting first 10 minutes followed up by a decent payoff in the third act once you’ve fought your way through the chore of the middle 110 minutes… but I guess you have to sit through all that for the ending to work.

My Rating: 73%