Face-Off: The Revenant vs. The Grey

Welcome back, blood bathers, to the JoBlo movie segment, Face-Off. We have an excellent showdown for you today, as two movies about survival will face the ultimate test of...survival: THE REVENANT and THE GREY.

On the left we have the Oscar-winning mega hit, which finally snagged it's leading man, Leonardo DiCaprio, his first Oscar after years of rejection in a performance he put his entire heart, soul and body into. On the right we have the film that was advertised as "Liam Neeson punching wolves", but became so much more, featuring one of the best performances ever from the Irish superstar

Both movies pit astounding leading men against impossible odds in a test of redemption, revenge and, overall, manliness. Today, they face a challenge unlike the freezing cold, ravenous animals and blowing snow — each other!

Leonardo DiCaprio as Hugh Glass
Tom Hardy as John Fitzgerald
Domhnall Gleeson as Captain Andrew Henry
Will Poulter as Bridger
Lukas Haas as Jones
Forrest Goodluck as Hawk
Liam Neeson as Ottway
Frank Grillo as Diaz
Dermot Mulroney as Talget
Dallas Roberts as Henrick
James Badge Dale as Lewendon
Joe Anderson as Flannery
Nonso Anozie as Burke
Alejandro G. Iñárritu made a name for himself with somber, character-driven dramas like BABEL and 21 GRAMS but in recent years has achieved legendary status by creating philosophical masterpieces that are also visually marvelous, like the subject of this Face-Off and BIRDMAN, both of which won him the best director Oscar two years in a row. Just like in BIRDMAN, Iñárritu not only creates a visceral showstopper, but also directs his leading man (DiCaprio) to a career-best performance. Everything he demonstrated on BIRDMAN he brought to the table here and improved on it in spades.
Joe Carnahan is mostly known for his off-the-wall, crazy action movies, like SMOKIN' ACES and THE A-TEAM, but he proved with THE GREY that there is a depth to the lunacy, delivering a poignant, methodical and still badass survival flick. Though he has yet to deliver something on the same scale as this film, both in scope and complexity, he deserves much praise for his work here, and hopefully we will see more of this kind of stuff from him down the road. I mean, I'd even take some wolf action in his upcoming THE RAID remake. Baby steps.
Leonardo DiCaprio as Hugh Glass
was nominated for an Academy Award at a young age for the movie WHAT'S EATING GILBERT GRAPE, and since then has worked to build a consistently terrific, broad resume that has earned him nods for movies like THE AVIATOR, THE WOLF OF WALL STREET and BLOOD DIAMOND. His lack of the big trophy was seen as one of Hollywood's greatest tragedies, until one year ago when REVENANT finally earned him one of the little fellows. Doing the whole part with almost no dialogue, DiCaprio brings a raw, unhinged physicality to the role of Glass, the man who travels across harsh terrain after surviving a bear attack to whip the ass of the man who left him for dead (Hardy). A man racked with pain inside and out (emphasis on the out), DiCaprio's performance here stands out from all his others, which is saying something. Plus, he earned another trophy for "Most Handsome Bear Attack Victim Ever".
Liam Neeson stands as one of Hollywood's most tireless talents, having found a whole new level of fame as a grizzled action star. Once on that level, and kicking ass on it, Neeson went up onto a whole newer level with GREY, which takes that tough guy persona and infuses it into an exhausted, heartbroken man who's tired of living, on the brink of suicide. He gets a chance to fight for his life when he must lead a group of plane crash survivors across a barren, frozen wasteland...which is also teeming with hungry wolves. Layered, powerful, gripping and manly-beyond-all-compare are all acceptable descriptions of Neeson's performance here, turning out when of his best roles to date.
After a group of trappers is attacked by a vengeful tribe of Arikara warriors, frontiersman and beard master Hugh Glass (DiCaprio) must guide the survivors back to Fort Kiowa...on foot! While on a scouting trek, Glass is attacked by a massive mama grizzly bear, and needless to say, gets messed the [email protected] up. But Glass keeps on kicking, survives the ordeal, and is carried the rest of the way by his group. However, after some time, the selfish and half-scalped Fitzgerald kills Glass's son, Hawk, and leaves Glass for dead. Glass, like a BAMF, crawls out of the dirt and begins his journey to find the man who killed his son in a quest of survival and revenge...and ominous, prophetic flashbacks.
A recently-widowed man working at an Alaskan oil drilling plant as a wolf killer, Ottway (Neeson), is forced into the greatest test of survival after a plane carrying him and other workers crashes in the middle of frozen nowhere. Using a particular set of skills, Ottway leads these men through the cold storms away from a pack of hungry wolves and, hopefully, to safety. What's the point of fighting for your life when your reason for living is gone? All of that is answered in this story about survival, finding purpose when you're at your lowest and fighting for your life...and and ominous, prophetic flashbacks.
The music from Ryuichi Sakamoto and Alva Noto certainly does it's job of underscoring the mood in REVENANT, filling the silence and scenery with low-key, simple tones that manage to be both soulful and grand. Like a Western flick, there are a lot of string instruments at work, with long strides giving off an almost eerie effect. It's a somber score, but also quite lovely. Kind of curious about what kind of dreams I would have if I fell asleep to it.
THE GREY's score from Marc Streitenfeld sounds quote similar to REV's, with a delicate soundscape emphasizing the dangerous, barren landscape. However, it's just not as grand as REVENANT's and doesn't quite leave the same impression. Many of the tracks, particularly one in the beginning of the film, are lovely nonetheless.
It may be DiCaprio's show, but he's virtually upset by the awe-inspiring landscape of and fantastic visual effects (most props going to the bear). The film was shot across Canada, America (Montana) and Argentina when it was decided Canada had gotten too warm. No matter where they were, cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki made it look like heaven, taking scenery known to the human eye and giving it a whole new perspective. Iñárritu no doubt won his Oscar too by making use of the landscape, directing thrilling action sequences that make the most out of vast spaces, while never losing the moment or the characters. The film was made for $135 million, making it, perhaps, the most beautiful big-budget movie ever.
Aside from the plane crash and wolf action there aren't too many CGI aspects of the movie. Like REVENANT, the geography is the greatest wonder to behold. Often blanketed in vicious storms, there are mighty canyons and gorgeous rivers to gaze upon. The $25 million production budget meant this had to be shot basically in guerilla style, but it all benefits the proceeding.
THE REVENANT is a movie about survival yes, but it's also a revenge tale, and all of it takes place in the 19th century. So, the movie doesn't really make use of its time by showing off Glass's set of skills. His determination and fortitude are his most admirable traits, and though he shows off some handy work on his throat and makes nice use of a horse carcass we don't see too many survivalist techniques on display here.
The character of Ottway is a true, modern survivalist. From the get-go he's using smart techniques to ensure his survival, like buckling himself with three straps when the plane is going down. From then on we see him get his crew through with an array of tricks, like making use of remaining jet fuel, using bullets as a "boom stick" and, of course, making some deadly brawling knuckles with broken bottles. Bear Grylls can suck it! So can the bear in REVENANT too for that matter. I'd like to see it take on Neeson.
As mentioned above the team on REVENANT does an astounding job of filming the terrain, but other than some cold nights it never seems all too dangerous, in terms of geographical elements. The sun is often out, the wind is mild, there's plenty of vegetation and water around. If it weren't for outside elements, like being crippled by a bear and hunted by tribes, I'd say Leo would've had a really enjoyable, scenic trip back to kill Hardy.
When compared to THE GREY the picturesque Canadian landscape of THE REVENANT looks like a merry hike. The terrain of THE GREY looks about as close to the ice planet Hoth as you’re one to get. The blowing snow cuts like glass and the snow piles up so high you’re feet probably would feel like Popsicles. The snow is brutal and unrelenting, the animals are hungry, the food is scarce, and it's all hitting you at once. Given the choice between being trapped in THE GREY or THE REVENANT, sign me up for the pretty bear country.
    Best Actor – Leo (Won)
    Best Director: Alejandro (Won)
    Best Cinematography: Emmanuel Lubezki (Won)
    Best Picture (Nominated)
    Best Supporting Actor: Hardy (Nominated)
    Best Editing (Nominated)
    Best Costume Design (Nominated)
    Best Visual Effects (Nominated)
    Best Makeup (Nominated)
    Best Sound Mixing (Nominated)
    Best Sound Editing (Nominated)
    Best Production Design (Nominated)
Golden Schmoes:
    Best Actor: Leo (Won)
    Best Director: Alejandro (2nd Place)
    Most Memorable Scene: “Bear Attack” (2nd Place)
    Favorite Movie (Nominated)
    Trippiest Movie (Nominated)
    Supporting Actor: Hardy (Nominated)
    Best Trailer (Nominated)
    Best Action Sequence: "Bear Attack" (Nominated)
Box Office:
    $183 million ($532 million global)
Golden Schmoes:
    Most Underrated Movie (Nominated)
    Biggest Surprise (Nominated)
    Best Actor: Neeson (Nominated)
Box Office:
    $51 million ($77 million global)

Opening raid. So many arrows.

DiCaprio vs. The Bear

Fitzgerald to Bridger:"I saved your life twice now. I ought to be God to you. And God giveth, and God taketh away.

Get up, Leo! Get up, ya bum!

Fitzgerald to Bridger: "God...he's a squirrel. Yeah, big, old meaty one. 'I found God,' he used to say. 'And while sitting and basking in the glory and sublimity of mercy, I shot and ate that son of a bitch.'"

Set fire to the throat.

DiCaprio goes white water rafting.

Bye, bye, French penis!

He took a little tumble off the cliff.


Leo vs. Hardy. Two beards enter, one beard leaves

Ottway: "Once more into the fray...into the last great fight I'll ever know. Live and die on this day. Live and die on this day."

One shot, one wolf.

Plane crash level 11.

Wolves in the Night, Part I

Hernandez is eaten while on a piss break from his Nintendo DS. He never got to level four.

Ottway: "I'm gonna start beating the shit out of you in the next five seconds, and you're gonna swallow a lot of blood for a [email protected] billfold!"

Flannery couldn't keep up. Eaten.

Wolves in the Night, Part II

Diaz (Grillo) cuts off the head of a dead wolf, and throws it back into the woods.

Tightrope across the cliff. Telget goes down.

Ottway to "God": "Do something. Do something you phony, prick, fraudulent [email protected] Do something! Come on! Prove it! [email protected] faith, earn it! Show me something real! I need it now. Not later, now!" *No answer* "[email protected] it, I'll do it myself."

"Once more into the fray..." the pre-wolf-ass-kicking version.

THE GREY really is a terrific film, featuring one of Neeson's best performances yet in a gripping and poignant story about survival, filmed in some of the harshest conditions known to man. But when compared to the complex epic that is THE REVENANT, it can only come in second. Iñárritu made something special with BIRDMAN, but his follow-up feature will probably be the one he's remembered for. A visual masterpiece with graceful and bold camerawork, featuring DiCaprio's most devoted work, the movie won over critics and audiences, proving a movie so deep and thought-provoking can also achieve commercial success. So much of it works so well, and is unlike anything we've ever seen in the genre, or in modern film. You can come for the scenery, stay for the performances, cringe at the blood and bask in the beards. It's all amazing.



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