Thursday, January 21, 2016

The Revenant

- a person who returns as a spirit after death

Last year Alejandro Gonzalez Innaritu triumphed at the Oscars with his movie Birdman, winning the Best Original Screenplay, Best Director and Best Picture awards. He's back just a year later with The Revenant, which is up for 12 Oscars itself. It stars Leonardo DiCaprio as Hugh Glass, a frontiersman left for dead after a bear attack only to live and seek revenge on the man (Tom Hardy's Fitzgerald) who was supposed to look after him while he either recovered or died. It's an intense movie, anchored on DiCaprio's largely silent performance. Innaritu, meanwhile, has really stepped up his game in a different way, this time adding some poetic visuals that would normally be more at home in the work of Terrence Malick or Hou Hsiao-Hsien.

There's really not much more to the story than what I described in the opening paragraph. There are a few other characters in the mix, including the leader of the expedition, Captain Henry (Domnhall Gleeson) and the young men Bridger (Will Poulter) and Hawk (Forrest Goodluck), who is also Glass's son. All the actors are very good in their roles, though Tom Hardy's accent is a bit inconsistent and the odd tone he chose for the voice is sometimes hard to understand. Gleeson, so different from his villainous turn as General Hux in The Force Awakens, is particularly good as the trusting and noble leader of the expedition. I also liked Will Poulter a lot as well as the kid in over his head but with a good heart. Funnily enough, they're all doing accents as none of those 3 are Americans. Gleeson is Irish and Poulter and Hardy are actually from the same part of London. 

The main draw, acting wise, is DiCaprio in the lead role. He's pretty wonderful in it, conveying a lot about Glass without saying much. It's probably the least dialog DiCaprio has ever had in a movie, actually. He's always been able to say a lot with his eyes, those bright blues conveying fear, or obsession, or pain. He displays all of that here too, but the performance is mainly captured in the eyes instead of them being just another aspect of it. People are describing this year's Best Actor Oscar as DiCaprio's award to lose, and while I think it's a worthy performance, it'd only maybe crack my top 5 performances from him. It's certainly not on the level of his work in The Aviator or What's Eating Gilbert Grape?, both of which probably should've nabbed him Oscars already. But I will be one of those cheering if he does win.

Another big selling point of this movie is the look of the thing. It's possible that cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezski will win his 3rd consecutive Oscar (after awards for Birdman and Gravity previously) and it would be deserved. The movie is stunning in its bloody, snowy, bleak beauty. Though sometimes shot too close up for my personal liking, especially during a couple of action scenes, Innaritu and Lubezski give us such stunning shot compositions and camera movements that I can give up my tiny quibbles about closeups. There are no images in this movie that've ever been in another movie. Even when the scene is conventional, Innaritu has no interest in shooting scenes like they've always been shot by other filmmakers. So there are numerous new and beautiful images here. Werner Herzog would be proud.
I haven't seen a lot of the movies from 2015 that are up for awards, but I will be perfectly pleased with whatever this movie wins come Oscar night. It's an ambitious and pretty terrific movie. I still think Innaritu is the least of the Three Amigos (alongside his fellow Mexican directing friends Alfonso Cuaron [Gravity, Children of Men] and Guillermo del Toro [Pan's Labyrinth, The Devil's Backbone]) but this film certainly puts him a lot closer to them.

1 comment:

kathy said...

This movie was so intense, it didn't leave a moment to catch your breath! For the first time ever, I actually shouted 'sh*t' out loud in a movie theatre. Very embarrassing! Really good movie and Oscar worthy, Good Luck Leo!