Ah yes, this movie. From the moment I saw the trailer, I knew this would be yet another fantastic acting job by Leo DiCaprio. But I didn’t have much knowledge on the actual events being portrayed. Turns out, it was about the actual man Hugh Glass, a frontierman who gets mauled by a bear, left for dead by his comrades, heals from his wounds, and seeks revenge.
I won’t lie, I was sure DiCaprio was going to be great, but I wasn’t sure how this would work as an OSCAR winning movie, other than the much-hyped bear-mauling scene. But unless the execution of the story was something unique, I expected it to be a standard revenge flick. But, the Arclight in Sherman Oaks finally got the movie, and I took my first opportunity to see it. This my honest opinion of THE REVENANT.
Set in the backdrop of 1820’s, Hugh Glass (Leonardo DiCaprio) is a frontiersman and trapper, employed by Captain Andrew Henry (Domhnall Gleeson), working alongside his half Native American Pawnee son Hawk (Forrest Goodluck), the young Jim Bridger (Will Poulter), and fellow trapper John Fitzgerald (Tom Hardy). Their encampment is attacked one day by the Arikara, a Native American tribe, and slaughters most of the men under Captain Henry’s command. The survivors must now avoid the Arikara and hide what pelts they have left to come back for later once they reach the closest settlement with more men to back track with. However, early into their trekking, Glass sets out alone and comes across a pair of bear cubs… to which their mother attacks and mauls him. He kills the bear, but barely survives the ordeal himself, the rest of his team quickly finds him. They try to carry Glass as far as they can go, but some steep mountain climbing prevents them from going further. Captain Henry requests that two men stay behind to care for Glass until they can send help back. Hawk and Bridger quickly volunteer, but Fitzgerald also stays, knowing the younger men will need more experience on their side. It isn’t long however that Fitzgerald, whom never really liked Glass to begin with, feels like it’s better to just kill Glass and move on. But his attempts at killing him are met with resistance as Hawk protects his father. But Hawk is unfortunately knifed to death in front of Glass. Being unable to help and Fitzgerald manipulating the young Bridger to abandoning Glass leave. However, Glass never dies and some time later recovers and begins a long journey to recovery and the pursuit of vengeance against Fitzgerald.
Oh boy, get your hate messages fired up because my opinion is in the minority. It’s… really good. Not great, but, really good.
Alright, let’s tackle what everyone is saying about DiCaprio winning an Oscar for this film. I’m not going to lie, I’m not sure why everyone is saying it. Is it for his acting in the film? I might… agree, he does give an intense performance, but he’s had equally great roles that the Oscars took away from him. What I think everyone is referring to is not his acting per se, but rather the work that was put into it.
The scene where he’s mauled by the bear is the standout. As I understand it, through many different sources all being rather cryptic and secretive about how that scene was done, some of the bear is real, some of the bear is CGI, but all of it is DiCaprio. If I remember correctly, I think this was a similar technique used in the movie DR. DOLITTLE 2 (sorry to make the comparison, it’s just for an example). There’s a scene where Eddie Murphy is jogging through the forest with Archie the bear, but Murphy and the bear don’t actually share screen time. Murphy was shot first, THEN the bear, due to the dangers of a possible bear attack on Murphy, but the illusion is pretty convincing. Granted, THE REVENANT has a shit-ton more to work with, but I think the same concept is integrated here. It’s a very intense and brutal scene and the fact that DiCaprio had to endure both the freezing cold conditions of the shoot as a whole, and the intense physical endurance of this scene in particular, THAT is worthy of an Oscar: his WORK on the film, not necessarily his acting. Will he win it? I sure wouldn’t complain if he did, but I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s overlooked again.
I think if there’s any performance that will be the Oscar winner would be Hardy as Fitzgerald. What a slimy mother-fucker. He’s manipulative, shady, psychotic, I wouldn’t know if Hardy is just a naturally gifted actor, or if director Alejandro González Iñárritu knew how to get that cold-blooded asshole out of him. Either way, Hardy delivers the better performance, acting-wise, but it can’t be denied that DiCaprio was sure put through his own ringers.
But equal attention should be brought to the cinematography of the film. Oh yeah, that’s how good it is, people. I, Daniel J. Puyda, can spot good cinematography. There’s a lot of long tracking shots, particularly noticeable in the opening battle scene. That’s obviously not the only scene to have it, but it’s just the one that stands out the most. It’s a perfectly shot scene. Violent, intense, it’ll sure keep you awake. The whole movie is like this with the action scenes. Bravo on this department, which is some of the best I’ve seen from all of 2015.
However, it’s time to start talking about the things I had problems with, which are more or less just nit-picks. And that’s, ironically enough, the cinematography. No, not for the action scenes, but for the one-too-many shots of pretty scenery. This is starting to become a cliche for me, and not the awesome kind like capes blowing in the wind, or the superhero team walking intensely toward the camera, no the pretty scenery is starting to grate on me. Why is this such a big deal to me? Because it doesn’t really serve the story. What is this movie about? A guy gets brutally injured, on death’s doorstep, and is left for dead after his son is murdered. What does pretty landscape have to do with a random shot of pretty mountains and landscape? I just got the sense that these one second shots were put in the movie because of convenience of the crew. If the shots were meant to convey how much land the character(s) have to travel, then it would be okay. But I just found there were too many that served no purpose at all other than visual eye-candy. You’re not making a visual fantasia, guys, keep the focus on the characters. Pretty backgrounds are just a distraction from a man’s story of survival and vengeance. I know I’m lingering here, but… man does this ever bother me in movies. Thank god, there’s not too many of those in this movie, but it’s a noticeable amount to bug me.
Beyond that one rant about needless pretty shots, this film is pretty damn good. I may not love it like everyone else does, but this is a film worth seeing if you’re interested.
A strong 4/5