The Revenant is an apt title (for one who returns after death) because Hugh Glass (DiCaprio) gets wounds severe enough to kill him—several times. He is mauled by a grizzly bear, is stitched up by someone whose father was a doctor, and before his wounds heal he is dragged, almost smothered to death, almost buried alive, shot at…well, you get it. I was reminded of Mel Gibson’s Passion of the Christ when he pulls his heavy cross up a hill after he has been beaten so severely it’s difficult to see how he is alive, much less able to carry a cross. When films go to this extreme, they lose me.
The one thing that compensates for this is the ever-stunning cinematography of Emmanuel Lubezki (Birdman, Gravity, To the Wonder, Tree of Life). His camera revels in nature, and he enhances it with lighting, interesting contrasts and juxtapositions, and texture. One of many examples in this film is when torches are being carried in a night scene with a red glow in the background, and stately, majestic trees towering through it all. The trees—shown theme-like over and over—pick up on symbolic dialog spoken by Glass’s dead wife about how the branches of a tree might look like the tree is going to be felled by a strong wind, but when its roots are strong, it survives.
DiCaprio’s performance is a tour de force; he does not—is not able to—say much during the whole film, but is eloquent in his grunts and actions. His eyes alone can convey the message. The subtitle of the novel on which the film is based indicates that the story is about revenge, and the film highlights that aspect, giving it a noble connotation in that Glass has every reason to be vengeful. And the actor is to be admired for enduring the brutal elements during the nine months of filming, which started in Canada, but was moved to Argentina when a warming trend melted the snow in Canada.
Tom Hardy is adept in different kinds of roles, and here he plays the villain, and makes you grow to hate and disdain the character. He is especially good at being glib but convincing when he argues about doing something that’s actually wrong. He is one of the few actors who can keep the viewer mesmerized during a two-hour drive just talking on the phone! (in Locke).
I loved Innarritu’s Amores Perros, 21 Grams, Babel, and Birdman, but this film does not measure up to those accomplishments.
My problem with The Revenant is with the script, both in its content and in its length. Because of the illogical content, the movie is over long. And it’s become a cliché in action movies when two adversaries both lose their weapons and then resort to hand-to-hand combat. Ending a story like this in hand-to-hand combat with one of the players almost dead from his wounds weakens the conclusion.
The cinematography and DiCaprio’s performance are the main reasons to see The Revenant.
Grade: B By Donna R. Copeland