“The Revenant” Movie Review

My mom takes her jacket with her whenever she goes to the movies. Even during mid-summer when it’s scorching hot outside, she makes sure to bring a light jacket along with a purse regularly stuffed with cheap drinks and candy. I don’t blame her, since the theater we normally go to likes to blast the air conditioning regardless of the weather outside. I usually just tough it out. And although it doesn’t normally bother me, the cold truly got to me this weekend when I made my weekly trip to the movies. Though it wasn’t necessarily because of the theater itself, but rather it was because I was so immersed in the brutal yet beautiful winter wilderness of Alejandro Inarritu’s The Revenant  that I felt I had somehow fallen into the world of the story.

The film is based on the true expedition of Hugh Glass, an American frontiersman who embarks on a truly epic journey. While wandering in the woods, Glass (Leonardo DiCaprio) is nearly mauled to death by a grizzly bear. Bones are shattered, limbs are mangled, blood spilled- it’s by far the most intense and terrifying scene in the film. Figuring he’d be dead weight during their trip back to their company, a few men from his hunting party leave him for dead. Though one of them, disgruntled fur trapper John Fitzgerald (Tom Hardy), decides to give him a “proper” funeral. This perception of a “proper” goodbye includes burying Glass alive and taking the both his personal belongings and the life of his young son, Hawkes (Forrest Goodluck). Glass musters up his remaining strength and journeys across the American frontier to seek his vengeance on the man who did him wrong.

 This film is absolutely gorgeous, no question about it. The Revenant is one of the most beautiful films I’ve ever seen. Cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki- who worked on Terrence Malik’s The Tree of Life and Inarritu’s last film Birdman– sets up sweeping shots of snow-capped mountains, murky forests, and frozen pastures. The camera movements are very smooth and subtle, gliding from one image to the other and staying close to the main characters. This gives the audience a clear view of the action and the larger scope of the environment. it also lets us get up close and personal with the characters. One interesting tidbit is that the film was shot using natural light, and doing this adds even more realism to the film.

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Is is cliche to say that Leonardo DiCaprio was great? It probably is but I’m going to say it anyway because it’s the truth. I give more praise to his physical performance though, since his character doesn’t speak often, and when he does it’s usually in a Native American dialect (Pawnee I believe). But whenever he’s hurt, it definitely looks like he’s suffering, and he excellently portrays the raw emotion of a parent who has lost his son. Will Poulter and Domhnall Gleeson are also very good in the film, playing Glass’s fellow frontiersmen who are conflicted about having left him behind. Though perhaps my favorite performance was Tom Hardy as Fitzgerald. I felt that his character had more layers and that Hardy had a stronger presence.

The film is slow-moving, and it’s one that takes its time in telling it’s story. There are intense and violent action scenes here and there, but for the most part the focus is on Glass’s journey through this icy wilderness. Inarritu savors even the most mundane moments, whether it involves building a fire or hunting for food. And it’s understandable why he does so. It draws us closer into this world, allowing us to feel the chill of a harsh wind and be swept up in the waves of an icy river. But there are times when narrative flows too slowly, and the film builds surrealist imagery that doesn’t really tie in with how the story is being told. At times it seems like a borderline art-house film.

Another major issue with The Revenant is its rewatchability factor. Don’t get me wrong, it is a great film. It’s visually stunning, the acting is great, and it’s beautifully constructed. But it’s very much a one-trick pony. Now that I’ve seen it once, I don’t need to see it again. It’s on the same level as films such as Foxcatcher and Requiem for a Dream. It’s a powerful work of art, a film that I believe every person should  experience at least once, but it’s not an entirely pleasurable experience. The Revenant has just enough power to captivate you upon a single viewing, and it’s another great film from director Alejandro Inarritu.

Cosmic Grade: 4/5 stars

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