Sunday, December 27, 2015

The Revenant Review

The Revenant Review
It was just last year when director Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu directed "Birdman." A movie I feel desperately in love with at first sight. It has been less than a year since Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu got up on stage at the Oscar ceremony to take home the award for Best Picture. He obviously gained that honor for his work on "Birdman." After that honor, I decided that Inarritu is somebody I planned to keep an eye out for, and thankfully I didn't have to wait long, because a year later "The Revenant" was released. I was a little scared of this news, because when any director releases two movies right in a row, only one year between them, there can be some noticeable flaws in the first or second outing. Some people maybe disappointed that there is such a huge gap in years when somebody like Quentin Tarantino releases a movie, but the quality of those movies is undeniable. I will always take quality over quantity every day of the week, and its part of the reason why it never surprises me when directors like Woody Allen or Clint Eastwood make bad movies, they barely give themselves time to breathe in a new idea when they release a new movie each year.

Sometimes, success can be hot and that seems to be the case for Inarritu and his new movie "The Revenant." "The Revenant" isn't anything like "Birdman." "Birdman" was a cerebral comedy with a fun little gimmick within its camerawork. "The Revenant" is an epic, ugly road through survival and revenge. Inarritu uses some of that clever camerawork in "The Revenant," as in the opening scene where a fur trapping outpost is attacked by a group of Native Americans. There are never any cutaways or pullbacks on the camera, you experience the attack as if you are a fur trapper fighting for your life. The opening is a completely breathtaking experience, and it quickly draws you into this dangerous world. As only a handful of fur trappers survive the attack, a small group of them escape with their catchings.

One of those trappers is a man named Hugh Glass (Leonardo DiCaprio), a quiet and loyal man who had a son with a Native American woman. He maybe looked down upon by some of his peers, but there is doubt how dangerous they all think him to be. Once Glass reaches the shore with his peers, they plan to return to their town. While hunting for food, Glass gets separated from the rest of the group and gets mauled by a bear. When I say mauled, I mean MAULED. Easily the most vivid and most grounded scene of an animal attacking a human that I can name. It is most definitely not rape as it has been called in certain circles. It is a full on bar attack, and the most realistic attack that I have ever seen. Glass barely escapes with his himself, and when his peers discover him afterward, Glass is clinging to his life.

Glass's boss Andrew Henry (Domhall Gleeson) assigns three men to watch over Glass as he moves forward to get help from their town. The three men to stay behind to bring Glass back are Fitzgerald (Tom Hardy), Bridger (Will Poulter) and Glass's own son Hawk (Forrest Goodluck). Fitzgerald believes Glass won't last, and he's afraid that the Native Americans are close on their tale. So he fakes Glass's death, murders his son, and persuades Bridger to go back to town with him to report Glass's death. Glass is still very much alive though, and he plans to get back to town to settle the score with Fitzgerald.

"The Revenant" is a fever dream, brought to life by a cohort of wonderful actors who bring this story to life on a massive scale. Leonardo DiCaprio owns this movie, yes he does. I wouldn't be surprised at all if he gets several nominations across several ceremonies within the next few weeks. I'd love to see him get the recognition, because this astonishing work that he puts on display. Tom Hardy creates the perfect foil for DiCaprio's character and I love the tension and the build-up as they silently square-off in the final moments of the film. Most of the film though focuses on DiCaprio and he pits himself in the most authentic survival mode that I have seen in a movie in a very long time and boy does he nail it. Domhall Gleeson, who clearly had the time of his life playing General Hux in "Star Wars: The Force Awakens," is much more heroic here, and he's just as believable. Will Poulter does wounded work here as the seemingly the only man with a real conscience, he doesn't like putting up with Fitzgerald, but he seems to have no other choice.

While the actors are all magnificent here, I can't help but notice that wildlife and nature play just as an important role in the movie as the actors do. Not only is the infamous bear attack a surreal pleasure, but there is an equally beautiful moment when Glass happens upon a pack of wolves bringing a buffalo down. There is also a great scene where Glass experiences an avalanche. These scenes feel like dreams come to life, and I give Emmanuel Lubezki credit for his unbelievable cinematography, he brings this movie to an all new height. The make-up and hair are also top-notch here, and I love how little things as make-up and hair play such a huge role in this movie. These actors look really rough throughout their journey in this movie, and you feel it in the audience.

Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu has completely outdid himself these last two years. If he has enough gas left in his creative tank, I hope he can crank another winner out next year. But if he needs to take his time on his next project, I hope he does. Its amazing he has such a profound voice that he can make something as deliriously funny as "Birdman" and also make something as deliriously mundane as "The Revenant." He once again found actors who give it their all, and the crew he brought together to make this come to life created a living, moving, dream of a movie.

FINAL GRADE: A+

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