This is one of the last big 2015 movies I still needed to see (I think The Danish Girl is the only other one left) and it finally hit wide release. The theater was packed and I was surprised the sort of hype this movie had. There were only a few showtimes each day but I get the feeling that will be changing.
Leonardo DiCaprio stars as Hugh Glass, a fur trader in the frontier. He has a half Native-American son (Forrest Goodluck) that he has to look out for. There is a terrible bear attack that leaves Glass near death and their commander (Domhnall Gleeson) makes the executive decision to leave him, under the condition someone stays until he passes and gives him a proper burial. Another trapper named Fitzgerald volunteers to stay (Tom Hardy) as well as a young trapper named Bridger (Will Poulter). Fitzgerald however knows that Glass is dying, so he tries to end his suffering early. Long story short, Fitzgerald kills Glass’ son and buries Glass alive. But surprise, Glass survives and must now make his way back to civilization and find the man that murdered his son.
That sounds like a spoiler but that’s literally every trailer for this movie, so I don’t feel too bad.
The movie is directed by Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu (Birdman).
This movie did not disappoint.
Let’s start with the obvious: Leo. “Will he get his Oscar?” I think he has a really strong chance but (again) I still haven’t seen The Danish Girl. I think Redmayne is the one to beat this year. Leo’s performance though is fantastic. Not a lot of dialogue, as he spends most of the movie alone, but he absolutely makes the movie engaging and interesting when no one else is around. It’s almost a similar formula to The Martian, though our characters had very different mindsets in the midst of tragedy.
The real star of the movie is Inarritu. This movie is a masterpiece in filmmaking. You have to see this movie in theaters, seeing it on your home TV or even on a laptop will be a disservice to the incredible work he’s done here, along with cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki (Birdman, Gravity). They manage to create some of the most breathtaking moments I’ve ever seen on-screen. They somehow make the scope of the screen look gigantic, like we’re watching on IMAX but… it’s not. It’s magic.
And here’s something you may or may not know. The “thing” with Birdman was that the entire movie looked like one take. The “thing” with The Revenant is that they used no artificial lighting. When they shot a scene in the forest, they truly used whatever natural light was found. It’s breathtaking how this small nuance made a world of difference. It makes the film feel more inclusive, like we’re part of it, as opposed to feeling like a movie that we’re watching from afar. They also achieved this by having the camera extremely close in the action and did really long segments without (the appearance of) cuts.
While DiCaprio is getting a lot of notice, Tom Hardy shouldn’t be ignored either. I made a video for Best Villain of 2015 and I think he might’ve stolen that top spot, had I seen this early enough. However, he does have that signature mumble that makes it difficult to understand what he’s saying. All you need to know is he’s a bad dude.
In terms of story, it’s relatively simple and somewhat predictable, though it’s still a beautiful journey. It’s full of great little moments and plenty of trauma and tragedy. The aforementioned bear attack wasn’t as intense as I had been prepared for but there were a few other scenes that had me squirming in my seat. The movie pulled you into these moments, making you feel like you were there. Which made the hard moments even harder to swallow.
What doesn’t work?
Very very little. The movie is a little long and could’ve cut a tiny bit but not a huge complaint. Also the ending isn’t as clear cut as you might want, so most of the theater kind of sat in silence for a few moments, trying to figure out exactly what happened.
The Revenant is breathtaking and I would put good money on this film sweeping a lot of the technical awards this year. Both DiCaprio and Hardy put in performances that will undoubtedly earn them nominations as well but we’ll see if they can actually score the win. This movie is a little long but the journey is one that you won’t soon forget. This is a must-see in theaters, as the sights are so magnificent that they deserve the proper treatment. Don’t waste any time, do yourself a favor and get yourself to the nearest theater.