Sunday, February 7, 2016

The Case for Revenations

My first film for 2016 was the Oscar nominated The Revenant.

A full cinema sat for two and a half hours, grimacing and cringing as Glass (Leonardo DiCaprio) was beaten, mauled, exposed, horsed, and beaten again, the more gruelling scenes eliciting sympathetic groans of discomfort.  And barely a word was heard, even though the movie has long tracts of just one man against the bitter frozen North American wilderness.

It’s a simply stunning movie visually, and story-wise as well.  The narrative is compelling, though it plays second fiddle to the beautifully harsh landscape as Glass and his company have to make their way to a safe haven. 

Tom Hardy and Domhall Gleason (again!) are both excellent in their support (or otherwise) of DiCaprio, and in fact all the supporting characters give their all and fill the Revenant’s world with believable characters and motivations.

I won’t say too much again, for fear of spoilers, but the word “visceral” comes up often when people talk about this film, and with good reason.  You feel the pain and suffering Glass is going through.  It’s a bit like the story of survival told by The Martian, except in the Revenant’s case, there is no super technology on call nor a team of people back home doing everything they can to try and help Glass survive.  Instead, it’s a man alone, with nature at its harshest and least merciful, and with other men about actively plotting and planning to kill him.

However, the bleakness of the story and the landscape does not make this a depressing film whatsoever.  It’s filled with beauty and hope and shows the size and majesty of the world of the 18th Century explorer crossing the barely charted United States (or what, through annexation of Native American lands, became the continental USA). 

So, gripping from beginning to end, savage and primitive, The Revenant is an amazing film to behold, made more so by an immersive surround sound system.  Will this net Leo his Oscar?  Who can say – but for his effort and endurance alone in filming this harsh and uncompromising film, he probably deserves it.

Verdict: The Revenant is an incredible visual and emotional feast.  There’s not a huge amount of soul searching or scintillating dialogue, but the power of this tale of revenge and of man (or woman) against the elements delivers a lot of emotional punches, and makes for exhausting yet satisfying viewing.  9 bear hugs out of 10.

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