Review: The Revenant Features A Top Tier Lead Performance But Is A Little Long
Title: The Revenant
Director: Alejandro González Iñárritu
Screenwriter: Mark L. Smith (screenplay), Alejandro González Iñárritu (screenplay), and Michael Punke (based in part on the novel by)
Principal Cast: Leonardo DiCaprio, Tom Hardy, Domhnall Gleeson, Will Poulter, Forrest Goodluck, and Paul Anderson
Summary: A frontiersman named Hugh Glass on a fur trading expedition in the 1820s is on a quest for survival after being brutally mauled by a bear.
I’ve been thinking about this review for nothing short than a month. I got to see The Revenant in the beginning of December because for a movie to qualify for end of year awards and the like it needs to screen before the end of the year. I’ve sat down several times to try and write this review but I always find myself short of words. This movie has been hyped because of all of the end of year awards it is wracking up, but even after so much time to think about it I just don’t know if I’m quite as on board as everyone else is.
The Revenant is masterfully acted with a stunning performance by Leonardo DiCaprio, but a very long running time made it feel a little sluggish to me.
As I was writing my end of year lists I wondered on Twitter if keeping The Revenant off of my top ten would get me kicked out of the “cool kids club”. I was listening to my fellow critics gush about this movie and I just wasn’t as convinced as everyone else. That is not to say that it is bad, not by any stretch of the word, but I wasn’t as into it as everyone else. When people say that this is the best performance by Leonardo DiCaprio as Hugh Glass they aren’t lying. He leaves absolutely nothing on the table and someone should probably give him an Oscar before this man kills himself. This is one of those movies that is hard to watch, not because of blood or gore, but just moments that make you wince with sympathy pain. The bear attack that kicks off the plot is overly long and brutal enough that it belongs in the horror genre. The movie doesn’t skirt away from how painful that entire scene would be for a real human being. (That being said the bear was CGI and it was painfully (for lack of a better word) obvious, but more on that later).
This is mostly a one man story but there are some great back up performances by the supporting cast. One of the stand outs for me was Domhnall Gleeson as Captain Andrew Henry, currently taking the world by storm thanks to Star Wars: The Force Awakens and breaking hearts in Brooklyn with red hair that any Harry Potter fan would recognize. He does a lot with a limited amount of screentime and with a sense of righteousness that you don’t see in movies like this. The other was Will Poulter as Bridger who just perfectly encapsulates a man who just wants to do the right thing. Director Alejandro González Iñárritu must be given credit for how beautiful this movie is. He truly captures what a harsh and unforgiving terrain this was being shot in. If half of the stories about how hard this shoot was are true, it’s probably a miracle that no one actually died. The movie was shot entirely with natural light and cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki is probably going to get another Oscar this year.
By the time the movie ended, however, I just wasn’t as in love with it as I wanted to be. The movie is over two and a half hours long, and unlike other long movies this year it felt that way to me. I’m not sure if the pacing was bad or if the movie was just a little too long. I’m in one of those rare moments where I’m having a hard time putting into words why I didn’t like this movie more. Tom Hardy is our villain and it isn’t his best performance in my opinion. Hardy is a solid actor but it seemed like he wasn’t as invested in this movie as he has been in the past. There were also some coincidences that seemed a little far fetched and moments where the line of “fiction” and “reality” that I’ve talked about in the past began to blur. It’s almost impossible to avoid this line when it comes to true stories but some movies handle it better than others. As I said earlier the CGI bear, not the attack itself, was a little fake looking to me and it kept taking me out of the scene.
The Revenant has one of the best performances of the year along with a very good turnout from one of the best directors working, but at the end of the day I couldn’t make myself say that the movie was brilliant. It was very good, and got an honorary mention in my top ten list, but aside from the spectacle of seeing Leonardo DiCaprio nearly kill himself for a role, I didn’t love it as much as everyone else.