MOVIE REVIEW: The Revenant (2016)

Director: Alejandro González Iñárritu (as Alejandro G. Iñárritu)
Writers: Mark L. Smith (screenplay), Alejandro González Iñárritu (screenplay) (as Alejandro G. Iñárritu), Michael Punke
Stars: Leonardo DiCaprio, Tom Hardy, Will Poulter

In the 1820’s a man escorting a team of pelt traders is attacked by a Bear and left for dead, his team, including his son, are reluctant to leave him to the elements and the fate that should have fallen on him.  When one of the team tries to put him out of his misery, for selfish reasons, and his son catches the mercy killing things take a massive turn for the worse.  What follows is a story of survival and revenge.

The director of Birdman comes right back at us with a film that couldn’t be more different.  With Birdman the setting was so confined that Alejandro González Iñárritu brought us into the small troop of the Theatre world with ease, here he manages to get the same effect in the wilds of the Frontier.  Leo Di Caprio takes another swing at the Oscar, and I’m not sure if this is the one that should win it for him, I thought that Wolf of Wall Street was a better shot, but he’ll probably win it for persistence this year.  It’s not that he’s bad, he’s just as good and steady as ever, it’s just this performance leaves a lot to be desired.  If you are going to weigh up the roles of Eddie in The Danish Girl and Leo in The Revenant, well lets just say it’s not an even fight.  Tom Hardy plays the villain of the piece here, and his mumbling continues, but at least this time you can make out the words that he’s saying, sometimes when he does a role the perfect accent is placed over understanding what he is saying.

The film is a revenge story, but unlike most, its actually good.  The revenge story is mixed in with a little social commentary about the plight of the natives who in their eyes are defending their way of life and the American and French hunters who treat the natives as though they are a sub class of species.  Thankfully the social commentary is there but isn’t thrown in our faces.  The other plot point used, and for me I found this more thrilling, was the survival story.  Leo’s character has to fight through the savage times, savage humanity and wilderness,  I have to give a lot of credit for the violence here, which is strange, I don’t mind a lot of violence but a lot of times it’s used in place of good storytelling.  Here it’s natural, probably still a little excessive, but you don’t mind it as much.  Great set pieces such as the Bear attack and the final fight lift this above a normal tale of revenge.

Why I loved this film more than most people though is the use of the beautiful and natural scenery, which is a stark contrast from the violent barbaric nature of man and the elements.  Director and production team bring the elements and cold to life and you start to feel it in your bones, even though you are in a nice warm cinema.  The haunted guide that Leo plays is one of life’s survivors who has a lot in common with the pelt hunter who becomes his enemy played by Tom Hardy.  Their ghosts follow them through the film.

The Revenant is a slow-paced thriller, excellent cast and crew bring it above the normal fare.  Some people have said slow-paced as an insult, not realising that slow-paced when the story is this good is something that we have to get used to.  The long running time is something that after another review yesterday of a long movie I have to admit that I was not looking forward to, but The Revenant just managed to be entertaining.

The production values are high, performances are great, maybe even nomination worthy and the story is so full of depth that you get immersed in to the time between the War of Independence and The Civil War.  If you want to think of this film as marriage between Liam Neeson’s The Grey and Charles Bronson’s Death Wish set in pre Civil War America then I honestly think that would be a good description.  The production though lifts it up higher than both those films.  For those of a sensitive nature just let me know when you are going, as it’s always funny for me to see people’s reactions to the violence, the Bear attack and the final fight will shock a few of you.

4 out of 5

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