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THE REVENANT had me sold the moment I saw the hypnotizing trailer and my hopes for it were through the roof from there on out! The story itself was inspired by the real life tale of Hugh Glass, a man who was mauled by a grizzly bear, left for dead, and crawled 200 miles back to civilization in 1823 to get his revenge on the people that took his shit and abandoned him. The 1971 film MAN IN THE WILDERNESS starring Richard Harris and John Huston was also inspired by this true story. This particular take on it though was an adaptation of Michael Punke’s 2002 novel The Revenant: A Novel of Revenge, which was in part inspired by Hugh Glass life. Hope that all made sense to ya! So how did the film fare? It owned this clown and then some! All that matters.
THE REVENANT grabbed me by the throat and rung it in three different yet powerful ways. First and foremost the film acted as a visceral revenge opus. I mean our lead character went through so much to acquire his vengeance, that I could taste it for him on the tip of my lips. Anybody that knows me and my work well, knows that I a love a good old-fashioned tale of payback and THE REVENANT came through in how it addressed said theme in a harsh and unrepentant fashion. Secondly, the flick whooped me stupid as an epic survival tale. Our hero not only had to fend off the heartless tendencies of Mother Nature but also his damn injuries and the random foe that would surface. By result, tension was often on the high jive, we got a handful of visceral action scenes (that bear scene…wow) and the way nature was shot in all of its incarnations (mountains, the woods, waterfalls, the snow etc) was jaw dropping to say the least.
Huge props to director Alejandro G. Iñárritu and his DOP Emmanuel Lubezki for this gorgeous piece of cinema. The thing was lit with natural light for the most part (which resulted in eye popping imagery) and I loved the camera angles/movements. The latter turned nature itself into an accomplice in the happenings, almost giving it a personality. Beyond genius! Lubezki served nature well when he shot THE NEW WORLD and TREE OF LIFE for Malick – but he has outdone himself here. An Oscar should be in order! Speaking of Oscars, if Leonardo DiCaprio doesn’t nab the Golden Statuette for his performance here, I don't know what to tell ya. Leo went through the gamut of emotions and obviously suffered mucho discomfort for this role. It was also obvious that he did lots of his own stunts doing them and for that alone he deserves my respect. He made for an affable lead and I was rooting for him and his beard the whole way. On his end Tom Hardy nailed his smart, intense yet psychopathic role well, while Domhnall Gleeson gave an intense show as the Captain.
Add to all that endearing “art film” tendencies via a heavy reliance on symbolism to beef up the substance at hand, a subliminal use of whispers and “out there” yet poetic dream sequences, a powerful and at time offbeat score (by Bryce Dessner, Carsten Nicolai and Ryuichi Sakamoto) upping the impact of the imagery and you get one hell of a potent celluloid injection. Any peeves? A couple but nothing to burn your house down over. Taking into account the subject matter, I expected to be more moved emotionally i.e. man tears – no dice! Don’t get me wrong, I was feeling it, just not to that level. My biggest problem with the film though is that once the last act kicked in, I felt a pinch of redundancy – which played against the finale for me for a couple of minutes. With that, I eventually got over it and became mucho involved in the climatic proceedings, so who gives a shit.
On the whole THE REVENANT was a visually striking and expertly acted revenge/thriller/western with art film tendencies. If you like your martini shaken but not always stirred – you may get something out of this one. I will personally see it again! So much to love!