Movie Review – The Revenant (2016)

Director: Alejandro G. Inarritu

Stars: Leonardo DiCaprio, Tom Hardy, Domhnall Gleeson, Will Poulter

A man’s epic story of survival. Hugh Glass (DiCaprio) is left for dead after being mauled by a bear, and after witnessing his son being killed by Fitzgerald (Hardy) he struggles across the wilderness, fuelled by a malevolent darkness inside called revenge.

For those of you who follow my blog you’ll know that I absolutely hated Birdman and it was near the top of my list of most disliked films from the previous year. so when The Revenant started to get a lot of plaudits and acclaim I was wary, even though DiCaprio and Hardy are two of my favourite actors. I was even unsure of going to see it at all because of the time investment but I went with an open mind and to my surprise I enjoyed it a lot.

The fluid camera technique is brilliant and the film just looks gorgeous. I think it’s definitely one that should be seen on the big screen, and I feel it may suffer from being viewed on a regular-sized television. The cinematography is excellent and visually it just drips with appeal, I felt fully immersed in this world and Inarritu managed to capture the heart of the wilderness, which was no mean feat. The film could easily have gone into pretentious territory but Inarritu kept a strong focus on the story and theme of the film. The opening attack was brutal and savage, reminiscent of the beach landings of Saving Private Ryan. It was hectic and as a viewer I was thrust into this landscape that was teeming with danger, and I felt just as lost and afraid as the characters in the movie. The imagery and foreshadowing worked well, as did the brief flashbacks seen in Glass’ mind, giving us a broad story while not delving into heavy streaks of exposition.

The depiction of injuries was brutal and the bear attack almost seems surreal in its realism. I was wincing and genuinely worried for DiCaprio’s safety, even though I knew rationally that it was a movie, and a film that can have me invested to that level is a special one.

Obviously it’s a long film, and this is going to be a sticking point for people, especially when it comes to re-watching it. There are parts in the middle of the film that drift, but I think this only adds to the experience and despite the length I felt the pacing was good and it managed to hold my attention. While watching the movie I was wondering how it was going to end because, given the length, the resolution of the story had to feel like it was worth all the time invested in it, and it didn’t let the film down at all. Hardy and DiCaprio were probably the two perfect actors to cast in this because they can do so much without speaking; that’s more true for DiCaprio in this instance, and his sheer power carries the movie.

Now, this wasn’t a particularly revelatory film for me and it didn’t touch me deeply on an emotional or personal level, but I was engaged while watching it and I am glad that I set aside my initial misgivings because it is a great achievement on a visual/technical level, and it could so easily have gone wrong.

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