Movie Review: The Revenant (2015)

 

I saw The Revenant on opening night with my teenage son and husband.  I have been looking forward to seeing this movie for a while due to all the hype surrounding Leonardo DiCaprio’s performance as well as the director, Alejandro G. Iñárritu (the reigning Academy Award winner for best picture and best director with 2014’s  Birdman).  My son was excited to see the movie because he is a huge fan of Tom Hardy (after watching 2015’s Fury Road) and he was intrigued by the survival story of Hugh Glass (played by DeCaprio).  My husband just went along because he had nothing else going on – not a big movie buff, that one.

So, of course, on the way to the movie, we googled what “revenant” means.  As it turns out, it means,  1. a person who returns, or  2. a person who returns as a spirit after death; ghost.

I thought it was a incredibly clever name for this movie about a frontiersman, left for dead coming back to avenge his wrongdoer.

The movie is 156 minutes long (that’s right, 2 hours and 36 minutes) so plan your bathroom breaks accordingly and consider the small diet coke vs. the large.
My son the thrill-seeking, Tom Hardy fan really liked the movie.  For him it delivered on all fronts – action, adventure, gun fights, knife fights, survival techniques, blood, gore, a grizzly bear attack – the works.  My husband, the mediocre movie fan, was so-so on it (as he is on just about every movie – so no big reveal there.)  Did I, the overly obsessed movie fan who breaks down and over-analyzes every element, like it?  Yes, but I was not as blown away as I thought I would be.  Leo gave a great performance as Hugh Glass the abandoned frontiersman.  But it’s hard to truly show off your acting chops while eating raw buffalo guts and sleeping in dead horse’s carcass.  He had very few lines in the movie, but, yes, he did an excellent job.  Academy-Award-winning-excellent job?  I personally didn’t feel it, but definitely an Academy-Award-nomination-excellent job.  To me, Tom Hardy (as John Fitzgerald, Glass’ nemesis)  and the incredible scenery of the film were the biggest bright spots.  Domhnall Gleeson as Captain Andrew Henry also turned in a noteworthy performance.
It is an incredibly well done, epic movie so please take the following comments as nit-picking.  This is also an out-of-my-preferred-genre movie so keep that in mind too.  First of all, I thought the movie was a bit long – I’d say by about 20 minutes.  I do think it needed to be a long movie so we could really get a feel for the epic journey of Hugh Glass, but by the end, I was getting a little antsy.
I know the cinematography is getting a lot of press, but, honestly, it was a little too choppy for me. I couldn’t quite settle in with the movie  (And with 156 minutes of movie, I need to settle in.) Of course, that unsettled feeling was probably by the cinematographer (Emmanuel Lubezki’s) design, but it didn’t quite cast it’s spell on me. Was the landscape unbelievably breathtaking?  Absolutely.  What it filmed beautifully?  No doubt.  But I just felt like I was being pulled between close-up and long shots too much and cutting from one scene to another too abruptly. I could have used a few more sweeping shots and some panning.  However, there are several scenes that are absolutely spectacular. At one point the camera is on a close up of Hugh Glass and his breath causes the camera lens to fog.  This makes it feel like you are right there in the scene.  Later, in a fight scene, blood spatters on the camera lens.  I thought this was an incredible effect, again making the viewer feel like they were in the scene.  I also loved the scene looking down on DeCaprio walking through the snow swept valley and the scene of his face peeking out of the dead horse’s carcass.
I found the soundtrack a bit inconsistent.  At times I thought it was perfect to build the mood of the situation or increase the tension, but at other times, I felt kind of lost – I needed some music to hold my hand.
So, in all fairness, I just don’t think this is the best movie to suit my personal taste.  I like movies with lots of character development.  While we do get to know Hugh Glass, primarily through a series of flashbacks/dream sequences throughout the movie, I would have liked to have a little more at the beginning.  At the point he is left for dead, I really didn’t have that much invested in his character and could kind of understand how someone could believe there was no hope of his survival and how trying to save him would get them all killed.  After the movie when I was thinking about all the little things I was not a big fan off, filming style, little character development, no explanation of location or time, open ended final scene, I realized this had a lot to do with the director.  Mr. Iñárritu is a terrific talent, I know, but his style is just not for me. I was not a big fan of Birdman either, so I don’t know why I thought I would love The Revenant.  I see that Mr. Lubezki also did the cinematography for Birdman, so again, his style is just not for me.
Mr. Iñárritu is an artiste and I an engineer – so I’ll leave him to the directing and me to over-analyzing and critiquing.
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2 Comments Add yours

  1. MaryG says:

    I think I liked the film about as much as you did (went with my husband who REALLY wanted to see it). I thought the most memorable single moment was the aerial view of the horse carcass, bloody in the white snow. But then again, I covered my eyes during several scenes! Nice blog.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. tracyfillip says:

    Yes, there is no denying is is an incredible epic film, just not suited for everyone’s taste. I had forgotten about the scene you describe…incredible. Thanks for reading and commenting!

    Like

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