The Revenant

Yesterday afternoon my husband and I went to see “The Revenant”.

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It was the eighth, and final, Best Picture nominee I needed  to see before the  Academy Awards at the end of the month. That makes twenty one  years in a row that I’ve seen all of the Best Picture  nominees before the Oscars.

Overall, I liked, but didn’t love, “The Revenant”. The film is an interesting snap shot of a time when American and French fur trappers were both in alliances and at odds with different Native American tribes.

While there is some good history in the film it is ultimately a story of survival. After nearly being killed by a bear Hugh Glass (Leonardo DiCaprio) is left for dead after one of his fellow fur trappers, John Fitzgerald (Tom Hardy), kills his son and leaves him in a shallow grave.  Somehow ever so slowly Hugh emerges from the pile of dirt he was covered up with to begin his journey toward revenge against Fitzgerald. As Hugh battles the elements and the various social issues between the Native American tribes and the French the question looms; what does revenge mean and does it really change what has happened in the past?

The film is a sight to behold and is beautifully directed by Alejandro G. Iñárritu.

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It is truly amazing to think that “The Revenant” was directed by the same man who made last year’s “Birdman (or the unexpected virtue of ignorance) (see my review of last year’s best picture winner: https://jeremyochsgonzales.wordpress.com/2014/12/01/birdman-or-the-unexpected-virtue-of-ignorance/comment-page-1/) because the films look so different. In terms of the technical aspect of filmmaking both films are incredibly impressive but in very, very different ways. The film is intense. It is very, very violent  but  it is not violent in a way that it glorifies things. It is violent in a way that makes you uncomfortable. You can almost feel the physical pain the characters go through. Speaking of feeling, the film really captures the elements of winter. It makes you feel cold as you watch Hugh go through hell on earth.

In terms of the acting. Despite a career best performance by Tom Hardy the film rests 100% on the shoulders of Leonardo DiCaprio. I have long admired DiCaprio’s film choices. There have been so many times over the years when he could have chosen to sell out and make a bunch of crappy popcorn films. Yet he’s proven time and time again he believes acting is an art and that film is a medium to tell interesting, original and important stories. He is 300% committed to his performance here.

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It is every bit as good as Tom Hanks in 2000’s “Castaway” or Sandra Bullock’s in 2013’s “Gravity”, in fact it is better. It is better because there is a level of rage that is added on to the sadness and determination to live that those other performances had. Make no mistake, Oscar or no Oscar Leonardo DiCaprio believes in what he does and is committed to leaving  his mark on film history.

Despite the amazing direction and fantastic performances I didn’t love “The Revenant”. It’s not an easy movie to watch (but then neither is “Saving Private Ryan” or “The Pianist” and I loved those films). It think it’s because this film is just one of those time when the whole is less than the sum of it’s parts. It’s not that I don’t recommend “The Revenant”, I do, it’s just that it’s not quite as great as it should have been given the talent involved.

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