“The Revenant” is a movie about frontiersmen. Wait, let me start again. “The Revenant” is really about making a political statement about land preservation and environmentalism. Actually… Hold on… I can get this. “The Revenant” is about… well I’m still trying to figure that out.
Here’s what I do know. This is based on a true story. Hugh Glass was a frontiersman who was mauled by a bear, buried alive by the other members in his camp, and literally crawled his way through hundreds of miles of the American wilderness.
From the opening frame of this nearly three hour movie you feel like you’re one of these frontiersmen and still I was lost. I was lost because there was no context. No backstory. As the movie progressed, there were scenes that were oftentimes ambiguous to the point that I wasn’t sure if they were flashbacks or dream sequences. The movie also had very limited dialogue, which I found frustrating considering that there were over twenty characters from several opposing sides and/or opinions for several reasons. I think… Again, no context.
Here’s what did work about this movie.
After the huge surprise of 2014’s “Birdman,” Alejandro González Iñárritu is a name that is very hard to pronounce, but quickly became cemented in every film lover’s mind. His use of cinematography, natural light, and color rivals only to the films of Terrence Malik. Make no mistake, the visuals of this movie are superb. They are gorgeous. They are breathtaking. The opening scene of “The Revenant” is one of the most ambitious and masterfully shot opening battle scenes I’ve seen since “Saving Private Ryan.”
DiCaprio will get his Oscar this year. But it won’t be because of this role, but rather for two decades of roles that ranged from great to stellar from better movies than this one. This will be almost like an honorary Oscar in my mind when he wins instead of it being for this role. Give credit where credit is due, though. This is the most physically demanding role of his career and he spent a good chunk of the movie covered from the neck down on a makeshift stretcher unable to speak because of the bear attack. Oh and that bear attack scene? Insane. It was nearly seven minutes long with no cut-aways. One continuous shot. In fact, you can watch some (not all) of it below. But be forewarned, it may be tough to watch for some.
Tom Hardy is also up for Best Supporting Actor and I can’t for the life of me understand why. Maybe it’s because I’m looking at it through a screenwriter’s prism. His character goes through absolutely no development throughout the course of the movie. Like I had mentioned before, there is very limited dialogue, but when there is dialogue, it always feels rushed and poorly recorded & mixed from the American and French characters. The only actor who was easy to understand and actually gave context and moved the story forward with dialogue was Domnhall Gleeson who played Captain Andrew Henry. The problem is that Gleeson’s character is a minor one and doesn’t show up until about two hours into the film. The acting from all the Native Americans, however, none of which were professional actors, were stellar.
“The Revenant” is a visual masterpiece shot only with natural light. It is a truly unique film to SEE. But if you want to be sucked into a story, this is not the movie for you.