THE REVENANT, Film Review, January 2016

The Revenant, the latest movie starring Leonardo DiCaprio and directed by current Academy Award-winning Best Director, Alejandro González Iñárritu is set in what was then an uncharted and unnamed part of North America in the 1823, which I guess you could call “the frontier”.

These days we call that area “The Dakotas”. After an incredible opening sequence (which smacks you across your senses right off the bat!), a small band of fur trappers heads back to ‘civilization’ with some of their bounty, trying to avoid any local native trouble. Along the way, the signature moment of the film occurs, which is when frontier scout Hugh Glass (played by DiCaprio) is attacked by a large grizzly bear (thankfully that was partly shown in the trailer, so I’m not spoiling anything here).

Amazingly, he survives the attack, and the rest of the film not only tells of his incredible tale of survival, but also of revenge, given that not long after the bear attack, his son (who dicaprio-xlargeis also half-Pawnee from his mother’s side) is killed by another member of the fur trapping expedition (played by actor-of-the-moment Tom Hardy). Apart from managing to survive the bear attack, the natives and the wilderness, Glass still tracks down Hardy’s Fitzgerald to a (somewhat predictable) showdown at the climax of the film. Perhaps most incredible of all, the tale of Hugh Glass being attacked by the grizzly bear, being left for dead and making his way over 200 miles back to civilization is a true story!

The film itself is beautifully shot by Mexican cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki (a long time collaborator with director Iñárritu, and holder of the last 2 Oscars for Cinematography for Gravity and Birdman), and he shows the majesty of the Canadian Rockies exceptionally well (where the exteriors of the film were mostly shot – other scenes ended up being shot in the Argentinian Andes, given that it was a long shoot and thus summer had come to Canada). For me, director Alejandro González Iñárritu is the true star of this film. Despite the subject matter, the long, slow scenes throughout and some really tough sequences in this film, he kept my interest throughout. Not a bad effort over the 2 and half hours that the film went for.

I will also add a word of warning for many of you out there – this film is not for the weak of heart, or indeed stomach. There are some truly brutal, gory scenes in this film (not least of which is the grizzly bear attack), and I think some people may not be able to handle what they see on the screen.

But I suppose what people want to know about, seeing as there’s so much hype about it, are the acting performances in this film. Ah Leo – for so long I admit I’ve disliked you, all the way back to when you first started out in Growing Pains in the 90s!* So even if I put that dislike aside and judge your performance critically, I have some issues. the-revenant-therevenant_leoposter_rgb

Without doubt, Leonardo DiCaprio, you truly made me believe he was attacked by a grizzly bear (even if it was a completely computer-generated grizzly bear). And your performance in the aftermath of that attack was pretty amazing, and I did completely buy your performance – for the most part. I would have a hard time, though, giving an Academy Award to someone who spent the entire movie spluttering and groaning, and then mumbling his way through what dialogue he did have.

In addition, as Hugh Glass’ journey back to Fort Kiowa continued, I found it hard to believe that all the things that happened to Glass would mean he was still alive to make it back to the fort. It was like Glass was a 1820s Superman! By the third and definitely the fourth super-human effort (as shown on the screen), I was thinking to myself: How on earth can he possibly survive all of this!? (given the year, the location and the complete lack of modern medicine) – and that made some of the scenes in the second half of the film almost comical. But I guess Hollywood has finally decided that it’s “Leo’s Year”, which is unfortunate. I still would rate Matt Damon’s performance in The Martian and Tom Hanks’ role in Bridge of Spies as much finer performances – but so be it. As for Tom Hardy and everyone else in this film, they were good, but good luck working out every word all of them mumble in this film as well!

I think if this movie was 30 mins shorter, and chopped out a couple of the latter superhuman efforts made by Hugh Glass, then I would have liked this it better and not felt that DiCaprio’s character started to make a mockery of himself. His performance was very good, but I do not feel (in this reviewer’s opinion) Oscar-worthy.

3.5 stars

* Editor’s note: This review does not reflect the opinion The Upside News has of Leo. The Editor happens to adore Leo, even as far back as Growing Pains. 

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David Emms is an electronic engineer, a father, and an avid movie goer.

He lives in Adelaide

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