Sunday, January 24, 2016

The Revenant review; an epic blizzard of artistry

When The Revenant was announced, all I really knew about it was that it was based on a book, and was nearly impossible to film.  It starred Leonardo DiCaprio and Tom Hardy in an epic revenge story, that was loosely based on a true story.  I also knew that the director decided on filming the movie with nothing but natural sunlight, in the blistering cold of winter.

The film is the heavy favorite to win Best Picture at this year's Oscars ceremony.  The film managed to win 3 Golden Globes a few weeks ago and is considered one of the greatest achievements in cinematic history.  Want to know why?  I'll tell you why.  Let's go!

What I liked about the film:
Alejandro Gonzalez Iñárritu, The Director
The conductor of the orchestra, the captain of the ship, and the director of the project, Iñárritu is perfect in his decision making throughout the film.  He brings us into the elements, to take this ride with his characters.  I could have been watching this in 90 degree weather, and still felt the cold nipping at my toes.  From the frozen breath coming from the actors, to the snow falling on their faces, Iñárritu brought us along for one hell of a journey.  His choice in cinematography (which I'll get into later), casting, locations, editing, etc., were all spot on to create a world I wont soon forget.  Despite what some of his competitors were able to accomplish this year, I'd have to say Iñárritu is a heavy favorite to win Best Director this year.  

The Cast
The cast and their performances are brilliant.  Let's talk about the elphant in the room.  Will Leonardo DiCaprio win his first Oscar?  Yes.  I firmly believe this is the performance that will not only get him sympathy votes, but the one he deserves to win with.  Without giving anything away, I can tell you that DiCaprio doesn't speak much throughout the film.  He has to convey a slew of emotions with nothing more than his eyes and body language.  Something not a lot of actors are very good at.  The peaks and valley's of his characters emotion are brought to life with a performance that will be discussed long after the awards season has come and gone.

Tom Hardy is spectacular in this film.  I hated his character in this film, but then, without realizing it, I felt sorry for him.  The script, written by Iñárritu and Mark L. Smith, is so good, you can't help but understand why the character is the way that he is.  We clearly understand his motivations, which makes hating him that much more difficult.  It's a shame there weren't more votes towards Hardy's performance; regardless of Academy votes, it's still a brilliant performance.  

The Cinematography 
Emmanuel Lubezki has won the last two Oscars for Best Cinematography in a film, and he'll hopefully make it 3 in a row after The Revenant.  Lubezki used only natural sunlight to shoot the film.  I don't know much about photography, but I do know that in and of itself is an amazing accomplishment.  Lubezki's choice in angles, and camera locations bring us into the action in a way usually reserved for big budget action films.  There is a scene showcased in the trailer that will leave you breathless; it features a character jumping off a cliff, on horseback, running away from enemies chasing him.  And that's not even what I consider the best shot/scene of the film.  Just think 'bear'-knuckle brawl.  Amazing.


What I didn't like about the film:
The Narrative
The movie is a huge accomplishment in acting and production, but the narrative is weak to say the least.  I realize it's not all about plot (see last year's review for Boyhood), but there has to be a bit more to this epic.  I really wish the script gave us more about DiCaprio's character's history.  There are bits and pieces related to the year in which the movie takes place, but we don't really know much about his past or his upbringing.  Also, how did DiCaprio's character make it work by marrying a Native American in a time when it must have been so taboo to do so?  

The Run Time
It was tough a few times to stay vested in the film.  This is more of a nit pick, but it felt at times that a scene or two could have been cut from the film to help the pacing.


The Verdict:
An Epic Blizzard of Artistry
Much like Alfonso Cuarón changed the way space movies are made, with Gravity; so too does Iñárritu with the adventure epic.  Leonardo DiCaprio will, and should, win his first Oscar.  Hardy gives a terrific performance as well.  But the real star of the show is Iñárritu.  His choice in everything from cinematography to music and editing made watching The Revenant an epic that will last far longer than the pain the cast and crew felt while filming this movie.  Go see the movie and experience something different than what we've become accustomed to.