Blockbluster: The Revenant
Quick Summary: Loosely based on a true story, a group of frontiersman in the 1820’s have things go wrong towards the end of a fur trading expedition. The core of the story centers around revenge, and how far one man will go to get it.
Genre: Adventure / Drama / Thriller
Director: Alejandro González Iñárritu
Cast: Leonardo DeCaprio, Tom Hardy, Will Poulter
Length: 156 min
Release Date: 2015-12-25 (USA Limited Release), 2016-01-08 (USA Wide Release), 2016-01-15 (UK)
More Info: IMDb
The Revenant – Official Trailer (Spoilers)
The first trailer I saw for The Revenant didn’t tell me anything about the film (it was different than the one from above), but somehow, despite it mostly consisting of people running through the woods and heavy breathing (and not the sexy kind), it was enough to pique my interest. This meant that I managed to go into the film knowing nothing about it, except that it takes place in winter and involved a bear. For me, it’s ideal to know as little as possible about a film before seeing it.
The film’s set in the 1820’s and features a group of frontiersman nearing the end of a fur trading expedition. It opens with the group working at their camp when they’re suddenly attacked by Native Americans. The film gets off to a very strong start, with a beautifully shot battle, featuring plenty of long shots between cuts. Ever since watching the fantastic Birdman a year ago, I’ve become a sucker for long shots (for those who haven’t seen Birdman, it’s done as if it’s one long shot the entire time. It wasn’t filmed in a single take, and it’s edited together, but it allows for some phenomenal cinematography). While Revenant doesn’t feature any shots that go on for as long as Birdman, the amount of the long extended shots and how beautiful they looked brought that film to mind. I didn’t learn until later that both films were directed by Alejandro González Iñárritu. I haven’t seen his work other than those two films, but I’m certainly interested in viewing them now.
It’s not just the extended shots that look great, though. All the shots look amazing. Iñárritu made it a point to shoot the film using only natural light and not using any CGI to enhance the film. The filming also involved many very difficult shots (I did marvel at times during the film “How the hell did they manage that shot?”) and led to many crew members either quitting or getting fired. In the end, it was worth it, as the film looks beautiful.
However, the film features more than just great camera work. Leonardo DeCaprio and Tom Hardy both give stellar performances. DeCaprio plays the lead role of Hugh Glass (minor spoilers ahead), a man who is left for dead by his companions after being mauled by a bear. Hardy plays John Fitzgerald, the character who clashes often with Glass. I’ll avoid going into too much detail, but events between these two characters are the catalyst for the revenge that takes center stage for most of the film’s duration. DeCaprio has been getting most of the buzz for his performance, and while he’s excellent in the film, I actually think that Hardy shines a bit brighter.
The plot of the film is fairly sparse, it being a pretty straightforward revenge flick. I love revenge flicks: for some reason, the concept of vengeance is fascinating to me. The Revenant doesn’t deal with the morals of revenge like I Saw The Devil, nor is it as complex as anything from Park Chan-wook’s Vengeance Trilogy (fun fact: Chan-wook was initially signed on to direct the film way back in 2001, with Sam motherfucking Jackson playing the lead role. As much as I love both Chan-wook and Sam Jackson, I’m not sure if I’d actually prefer that. It would have been a very different film to say the least). However, thanks to the great directing and superb acting, the movie manages to stay gripping and culminates in a very strong finale. It does falter some along the way, namely in that its 156-minute runtime is slightly excessive, though the pros certainly outweigh the cons.
A big component of the film is Glass’ predisposition for survival, and while that’s all well and good, it did stretch my suspension of disbelief more than a few times. This is also where the film tends to deviate from reality a bit more, as while the real-life Glass managed to survive an incredible ordeal, the film also features quite a bit that he didn’t actually undergo (as far as I can tell from a brief amount of research, at least). Minor spoilers ahead, but while he did manage to actually survive a bear attack, he didn’t recover nearly as quickly, having to crawl a good chunk of the way back, and even fashion a raft (he was about 200 miles / 320 km from the nearest American settlement). He also had to let maggots feast on his dead, infected flesh to prevent it from getting worse and rotting. However, the biggest difference is that Glass didn’t have a son in real life (at least not on the expedition with him), whereas in the film Glass’ son plays a fairly prominent role.
Despite some minor shortcomings, and a slightly overlong runtime, The Revenant is still a very good film. 2015 was a pretty weak year for movies, so hopefully 2016 will fare better and The Revenant helps get things off on the right foot.
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