The Revenant is the most recent film of Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu. I discovered Innaritu last year when his film Birdman was released and subsequently won the academy award for best picture, best original screenplay, best director and best cinematography. Critic’s take Innaritu’s films seriously. His films are built upon interesting ideas and are visually impressive, but they do not deal with important issues. Despite this, I was looking forward to The Revenant and I can say that it delivers enough entertainment value. The Revenant is a solid two and a half hours but contains enough propulsive action that it rarely feels slow. I am somewhat biased because I was drawn in solely by the subject matter of the film. The gorgeous natural setting and time period of the film are enough to earn my interest.
The basic plot of the film is as follows: Leonardo Dicaprio’s character is nearly killed by a bear and left for dead by the men in his group. Tom Hardy’s character murders Dicaprio’s half-indian son and leaves Dicaprio to die in the wilderness, against the orders of his commander, played by Domhnall Gleeson. The bulk of the plot follows Dicaprio as he tracks down Hardy to enact revenge on Hardy. Dicaprio must deal with a number of trials and tribulations as he makes an arduous journey to find Hardy. Dicaprio is mostly silent throughout the film but must express pain through his character’s actions. Dicaprio’s ability to convincingly portray a man in incredible pain is what drives the film. Fortunately for the film, Dicaprio pulls this off. Hardy is the antithesis to Dicaprio’s silent bravery. Hardy’s character’s main goal is to survive and hopefully make money. He will do virtually anything to survive even if that means other men will die. He is without any morals. Hardy also speaks in a strange mountain man dialect that made him appealing to me. Hardy speaks english but he should be subtitled because his accent is so heavy. Hardy is absolutely convincing and his character is fully realized. It’s tough to say the same thing about Dicaprio.
The strength of The Revenant lies in the cinematography and pace. Many shots are beautiful and had me wishing I could rewind or pause the movie to fully understand them. Usually I am drawn to films for story elements. Once in a while, a film will speak to me on a level more emotional and direct than what can be accomplished through storytelling. Usually a film will have one such instance of this emotional resonance. The Revenant has a few moments like this. This accomplishment is reason enough to view Innaritu’s latest film. Unless you have an aversion to violence in any form, or you are especially empathetic, you will most likely enjoy The Revenant.
On another note, while this is an excellent film, I do not see it as superior to many of the other excellent films of 2015. For example, Mad Max: Fury Road achieves a much greater resonance with me than The Revenant. However The Revenant is being heavily marketed as a probable award winner. I suppose that this is due to the name recognition of Dicaprio and Innaritu. This cements my suspicion that the Academy Awards are a biased endeavor.