I wasn’t the biggest fan of director Alejandro González Iñárritu’s film from last year, Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) (2014). I thought it was beautifully filmed, but the storyline left me with a sour taste in my mouth that displeased me when it took home the best picture prize last year at the Oscars. Now, a year later, Iñárritu has another best picture, director, cinematography, and acting nominee in his hands and actor Leonardo DiCaprio may finally have an oscar knocking on his door; but is The Revenant (2015) really that much of a triumph?
The Revenant has been marketed across the board as a revenge movie starring DiCaprio as Hugh Glass – a man left for dead by his own frontiersmen and betrayed by his friend John Fitzgerald, played by Tom Hardy. While this is the plot of the film to the naked eye, it becomes apparent as the movie goes forward that it’s more than about revenge.
This is one of those films, I felt, that said to the audience, “How uncomfortable can we make you while you watch this movie?” The action scenes are incredibly well shot, I will give it that; but even at the beginning of the film, I felt myself sitting there thinking to myself that so much unnecessary violence is going on and it isn’t contributing to the story at all. When a village is being attacked and a man walks up to a horse blank faced and shoots it in the head, to me that just seems cruel and unnecessary – it just seemed like Iñárritu trying to “shock” his audiences with violence and the bloody result of it. I like violence, of course, but I like violence that helps the story and doesn’t just try and make an audience feel bad for watching a movie for entertainment.
I will say I did love the filming in the movie. Objectively, I cannot complain about it. Iñárritu has a great eye and that’s exactly what I said about Birdman. Iñárritu used natural lighting to shoot the movie which means that basically they would stand out in the cold for about an hour because the sun was in the right spot, and then shoot what scene needed to be shot. I’m conflicted by this because while there is a sense of artistic integrity to be had here being patient and waiting for the opportune moment to capture what should appropriately be displayed in the frame. However film these days is not only an art but also a business and there’s reasons why the production of this movie was delayed and crew members quit due to Iñárritu’s temperamental mentality throughout production.
Leonardo DiCaprio is gonna win the oscar this year. It’s inevitable. The man is a vegetarian and ate raw bison meet for a scene. Rumors have been surfacing that he almost got frostbite for multiple scenes and popped blood vessels from screaming and grunting so hard. I just feel bad for the man because while he definitely has deserved recognition in the past for his performances, I feel like at this point because the internet has made such a big deal about him not winning that they’ll throw him a bone just to shut people up. Who knows, though. I’ve only seen one other performance nominated for best actor and that’s Matt Damon for his performance in The Martian (2015). I loved The Martian and I loved Damon in it. His character is far more likable and someone I want to root for as I watch the film; but unfortunately he’s not getting as much recognition as DiCaprio is. Tom Hardy also scored himself a nomination for best supporting actor and to be frank, I don’t agree with it. He’s GOOD – there’s no doubt about it – but whenever Hardy was on screen and then the scene shifted, I never thought to myself that I wanted more of him. One actor in this film that I loved is Will Poulter who was in We’re the Millers (2013). I hope to see more of him in the future and I think after his performance in this, he has a promising career ahead of him.
The Revenant (2015), while being a beautifully shot film and once again proving Iñárritu’s point that the camera is this omnipotent presence throughout film, didn’t grab me the way other movies have this past year. I like to go to the movies and be educated while being entertained and getting lost in a world. Maybe it’s because the jerk next to me got up and walked in front of me three times; but I was never taken to the world that Iñárritu so desperately tried to hold my hand for. The underlying theme of the whole film is that no matter what happens, if you have a single breath in you, you fight. It’s a great theme if it weren’t bashed over my head in the first five minutes of the movie so that I knew to look for it throughout the entire two and a half hours. If I’m told what to look for, I haven’t learned anything – I’ve merely observed. Maybe Iñárritu wanted to make a movie that purely observes rather than educates; and if I’m being completely honest, that’s not why I go to the movies.
Overall Rating: 6/10 – Meh
It’s incredibly well shot and I find an appreciation for that along with the cast and crew’s patience. It’s Iñárritu’s main theme and how he conveys it that left me with a sour taste in my mouth when I walked out of the theater. DiCaprio may finally win the Oscar the world thinks he so desperately deserves; but does that really mean he needs it? A gold statue is nice for a mantel, yes, but I don’t think this performance summarizes DiCaprio’s impact on acting and film.
PS The CGI bear in this movie looked like garbage. The scene is an intense one and Leo brings it for sure; but there were some moments where I couldn’t help but laugh at how unrealistic this bear looked, I’m sorry.
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