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Review: The Revenant

Leonardo DiCaprio stars in 20th Century Fox's THE REVENANT

When you look at all involved in the making of The Revenant, it’s not hard to understand why people view it as something with a great deal of potential from just about every angle imaginable. That’s also something that begins to show itself right when the film itself starts. What’s here captures your attention and holds it as your interest continues to grow, but unfortunately, it doesn’t manage to hold up as well as it could have.

Thrusting us right into the story, The Revenant focuses on Hugh Glass (Leonardo DiCaprio), a Wyoming frontiersman traveling with a wild bunch of fur trappers in the American wilderness in 1823. While on this deadly trek, Glass finds himself in a situation where he is attacked by a bear. Believed to be mortally wounded, he’s left for dead by his team. Glass however endures and fights to survive the dangers that exist around him in order to seek vengeance on John Fitzgerald (Tom Hardy), the confidant behind his current scenario.

It’s important to understand that The Revenant is “inspired by true events.” The actual story is apparently quite different in various ways, but this is Hollywood after all. You expect them to embellish a bit regardless of how faithful they are to the real events that took place. If you choose to read up on what supposedly happened in real life or just rely on what’s being pitched to audiences, you’ll realize that there’s a story here that’s interesting enough to be told either way.

As I essentially point out already, things get off to a fantastic start as The Revenant proves to work as well as one could hope at this period. I sat there watching this thinking that it could be well on its way to being considered the best film of 2015, but those feelings didn’t last long enough since the quality does take a dip over time. The only real reason for this is the length of certain parts during the second act.

While this is considered a revenge tale, we happen to follow DiCaprio’s Hugh Glass as he treads through the American wilderness to get the vengeance he seeks. These parts of The Revenant are well done and prove to be the core of the film, but it turns out to be excessive in terms of the amount of time we spend on them. After a good bit, it’s clear for audiences to understand all of the trouble he has to go through, but  Alejandro G. Iñárritu doesn’t believe that to be the case since he continues to put obstacle after obstacle in the way of the protagonist.

Although some of what’s being shown during this portion of the movie can be described as fresh, it still becomes repetitive since we know the end result of these dire circumstances because the protagonist can’t fail in the middle of the movie. If he did, this film would barely qualify as a feature because it wouldn’t meet the required amount of run time necessary. What’s included simply would have worked better if some of these scenes were thrown out. You could leave just about everything else in the film and end up with a much better picture.

This and a stupid decision by Tom Hardy’s Fitzgerald character are the only flaws that the movie actually has that are worth mentioning. Usually, if a film only has two main flaws, they’re easy to ignore, but the ones here are so big they’re hard not to pick up on. For the sake of not spoiling anything, I won’t say what the cinematic version of Fitzgerald does wrong, but it makes no sense and managed to stick in my head through the rest of the flick after it occurs.

The Revenant is a wonderful feast in terms of visuals. From the start to its conclusion, it’s great to look at the way everything is shot. In actuality, this makes the film easier to watch during the scenes that should have been left on the cutting room floor. It adds to the sense of wonder as we fawn over much of what nature has to offer.

Another feature of The Revenant that ends up on the positive side of things is the violence. As you’ll find out for yourself if you choose to see this, the violence is brutal as there’s an attempt to make audiences feel the pain that’s being dished out on multiple occasions. There are plenty of instances where the audience reacted to what was on screen with moans of disbelief. For myself, this made the movie even better, because it came off as more realistic. Plus, I just happen to like this kind of thing.

Although I ultimately approve of The Revenant, it’s clear that Alejandro G. Iñárritu loses himself in his own artistic endeavors and desires. With the awards and critical acclaim he’s recently received, it’s clear to see how that may actually be the case. If that’s the issue, being infatuated with your work or even outdoing your previous work is understandable. Either this is the issue or he just really, really loved filming nature. That is perfectly fine with me if that’s what it is, but he should have kept that reel for himself and not added to what could have been a masterpiece.

Rating: R

Director: Alejandro G. Iñárritu

Leonardo DiCaprio
Tom Hardy
Will Poulter
Domhnall Gleeson

Film Length: 156 minutes

Release Dates:
December 25, 2015 (Limited)
January 8, 2016 (Wide)

Distributor: 20th Century Fox

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