Through the quagmire of vacuous shiny figurines and raging computer generated rubble that is contemporary cinema, The Revenant shows up to give us something to latch onto. Breathing space, an antidote and counterweight. We enter 2016 and it looks like we’re looking at the manliest movie of the year already, with a movie that is all that it’s cracked up to be. This film is a feast for the eyes and ears, it’s a bleeding-red meat steak of a manly movie. Bring the antifreeze.
Man, wilderness, treachery, revenge. Fine elements for a manly movie, various combinations of this have worked over the years. Seraphim Falls, The Edge, Man in the Wilderness, Death Hunt and now The Revenant, probably the best entry into the genre yet. A group of frontiersmen are hounded onto the back foot in 1820s America by native warriors. Among them is (Hugh Glass) Leonardo DiCaprio and (John Fitzgerald) Tom Hardy. When Glass is mauled by a bear, Fitzgerald not only ultimately leaves Glass for dead but crosses the man’s family, a half-caste Indian boy belonging to Glass.
Little does Fitzgerald know that Glass has summoned his inner Charles Bronson and, damnit, is going to hunt the varmant down across the wilderness out yonder in the dead of winter. And not to sit down for a talk. This is real man’s business, it needs to be handled.
I don’t know much about director Alejandro González Iñárritu, but I feel that the man needs to be watched with a closer eye from here on out. His film is a picture of stunning immersion, he’s a man who apparently considers having a movie look good to not be enough. Many directors can make a movie look good, but real auteurs invoke complete atmosphere, the tingling of senses. We’re in a hyper real world here and not a pair of 3D glasses in sight.
Complimenting that are the performances. I’m not a fan of Leonardo DiCaprio, but this to me could be his finest hour. To me, the man is kind of overrated and prone to overacting, but in becoming a visceral beast here, half dead but motivated through murderous revenge, he puts in a career best. And, as a testament to Tom Hardy’s acting skills, I genuinely forgot that Hardy was in the movie and didn’t realise who he was until about 20 minutes in. Although Hardy does tend to mumble his lines, something that he’s been caught out on in several movies now, or maybe it’s just me who cannot understand him at times.
I’d really like to give this movie a ten out of ten but I think the second act kind of slows the pacing somewhat. DiCaprio’s trek across the frozen earth can sometimes become repetitive, with little in the background happening narratively speaking to buttress it. If you ask me, if The Revenant were a shorter movie, it would be an even better classic than it already is, the perfect movie. But the combined package, the realism, the bear attack, the scalping, the acting, the score and the chill, make this film a real piece of movie history. The best movie of its kind in ten years, since Apocalypto.
You want my advice? Do yourself a favour, see this at the cinema. Wait a while until it is almost removed, find a near empty screening and absorb this experience.