Review: The Revenant (2015)

The Revenant Movie Poster

The Revenant 2015 film poster” by 20th Century Fox. Licensed under Fair use via Wikipedia.

The Revenant is truly something else, perhaps I can go as far and say that it is unlike anything I have ever seen before in terms of the craft. It is a masterclass in film making with Alejandro G. Iñarritu’s direction and Emmanuel Lubezki’s cinematography, the film is the most visceral and brutal and awe-inspiring piece of cinema that I have ever seen. There are gripping long-takes and powerful close-ups, all done in natural lighting and on location. I guess much have already been said about the demanding shoot. Because Iñarritu vision is geared for total immersion. And I was indeed, truly immersed.

But what about the story? The characters? When a friend asked me about Leonardo DiCaprio as Hugh Glass, I said what needed to be said. He is exceptional and riveting. He gives it his all. And by all, I mean “ALL”. He grunts and coughs and wheezes and crawls like nobody’s business. So much so that this performance might just put all the Leonardo DiCaprio No-Oscar memes to its death. And then I said that he’s a dad and a husband, in the movie I mean. But I was surprised that I couldn’t go any further. I think I mistook character depth for the kind of sensory experience Leo made me feel. So here’s the bad news. Neither the story nor the characters are as impressive as the technical aspects of the film. The Revenant as the title suggests is the story of Hugh Glass, a man mauled by a grizzly bear and left for dead by his company of fellow fur trappers. Glass rises from the grave, broken bones, bruises, wounds and all, and embarks on a journey of vengeance. Sounds like a solid Western yarn. But after watching the movie I realized that I did not quite feel any strong emotions. Well sure, I cringed, I yelped, I squirmed. And I was ecstatic about having experienced all those cinematic tricks that made the whole film so visceral to me. But the deal is, I think the film is sorely lacking in the empathy meter. The emotional punch doesn’t quite hit its mark. Take the dream sequences that conjure the spirit of Hugh Glass’ Pawnee wife, which ended up to me as mere apparitions and did not tug a smidge at my heartstrings. As for Hugh Glass himself, there is hardly anything in the film that tells us about him beyond the “surface information” I mentioned earlier. I guess I was looking for something , anything to make me care a little deeper and a little harder about his survival. Much of the same can be said about their son Hawk.

But The Revenant isn’t entirely devoid of anything substantial save for the aesthetic aspect. There is so much in the film about the resilience of the human spirit. The undauntable human spirit that gets us through the worst odds. And I still maintain that it is a film like no other, it is a breathtaking movie watching experience, and is definitely well worth your 2 hours and 36 minutes.

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