Last year Alejandro G. Iñárritu made “Birdman or The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance” the best movie of 2014—in fact, the best movie of the decade so far. Following “Birdman” up with “The Revenant”
Iñárritu has done what few directors have ever done before and made two consecutive “best film of the year” films. “The Revenant” is a gripping technical marvel that deserves as many awards as people can throw at it.
“The Revenant” was directed and co-written by Alejandro G. Iñárritu, beautifully photographed by Emmanuel Lubezki, and starred Leonardo DiCaprio, Tom Hardy and Domhnall Gleeson. It tells the story of Hugh Glass (DiCaprio), a navigator with a group of hunters, who, after surviving a near fatal bear attack, is left for dead by a member of his team. Although it lacked mildly in plot, everything else is near perfect.
Let’s jump right in and talk Leonardo DiCaprio. It’s no secret that he has never won an Oscar. Droves of fans demand approval for his repetitive mediocrity, and when actors who gave worthy performances win the award they deserve, then the public moans and complains. This has happened a lot recently, and I am of the opinion that Leo has not had an Oscar worthy performance in his entire career – until now.
The character of Hugh Glass does not put a lot of emphasis on dialogue; in fact the majority of his performance is dead silence or yelling in pain. He evoked more emotion than some actors do in speech heavy roles. He broke you heart in sad scenes, making you pray you would never feel the kind of pain he did. It was clear that Leo was dedicated. This was a career topper and by far the best performance of the year.
One of the most impressive aspects of his performance was his interaction with a CG bear. Due to worries of animal abuse and the possibility of actors being seriously harmed, animals are most often computer generated.
When DiCaprio fights a fake bear, it is the most impressive human/animation interaction I have seen since “Who Framed Roger Rabbit?” (a compliment). The realism of the creatures was impressive, even in a time where most major releases feature heavy CG. Any visual affects paled in comparison to the masterful cinematography that Emmanuel Lubezki gave us. This was the most beautifully photographed film I have ever gotten to see. This is his second consecutive collaboration with Iñárritu and was absolutely masterful.
This movie is heavy on natural lighting; almost the entire movie takes place outdoors. Everything looks beautifully real. The long continuous shots that this pair made so incredible in “Birdman” are used to put you right into battle. The consideration put into every frame, the jaw dropping scenery, it was all perfect.
There was camera work that made me sincerely curious as to how it was made. If you are someone who enjoys photography, that interest alone is enough for you to love this movie.
As a movie, it can be hard to watch at times, both intentionally and unintentionally. Iñárritu does not pull any punches when it comes to portraying violence. There are arrows through the eye and body parts being chopped, and you see it. In the theatre I saw “The Revenant,” there were loud, usually negative reactions during every battle scene.
It fits within the context of the movie and never feels out of place or over the top. This is just a violent, difficult-to-watch story. Doing it any other way would not have done the story justice.
However, this movie can drag. At times you want the movie to pick up pace. In fact, pacing is the only real complaint I have that holds this back from being a perfect motion picture. A slightly tighter and more intentional script would have improved on what was already a terrific movie.
“The Revenant” is without a doubt the most well-made movie this year, but not necessarily the best movie. It has a career-defining performance for DiCaprio and delivers a second helping of some of the best aspects that Iñárritu and Lubezki served us in “Birdman.”
With the Oscars coming up, it will no doubt sweep the awards, with a DiCaprio win almost a guarantee, and the movie, as a whole, being a top contender for best picture, director, and cinematography, and it deserves them.
–Jack White, contributing writer