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Revenant, The (2015)
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by Peter Sobczynski

"Leo And Bear, Oh My!"
4 stars

As of now, Leonardo DiCaprio has been nominated for no less than five Academy Awards—one for Supporting Actor for “What’s Eating Gilbert Grape?,” three for Actor for “The Aviator,” “Blood Diamond” and “The Wolf of Wall Street” and one for Best Picture as one of the producers of “The Wolf of Wall Street.” For most actors, especially one as relatively young as he is, this would seem to be an incredible accomplishment but to his eyes, there is an excellent chance that he looks upon it as being snubbed by the academy five times and to add insult to injury, he didn’t even receive a nomination for “Titanic,” making him the only high-profile member of that production to be left aside. Sure, he has critical and popular acclaim, millions of dollars in the bank and hot and cold running supermodels on the hoof but the one thing that he does not yet possess is the kind of respect symbolized by that golden statuette and it is clear that he will stop at nothing until he finds a project that will at last earn him the award before he turns into his generation’s Peter O’Toole. His latest film, “The Revenant,” which also marks director Alejandro Inarritu’s first film since last year’s Oscar-winning triumph “Birdman,” is perhaps his most overt attempt to land the prize to date—a story that is not only a virtual one-man show for large portions of its running time but one that comes wrapped up in a production already infamous for its arduousness that it all but screams for viewers to recognize him as a serious actor at last. As examples of Oscar bait go, the film is an often-stunning work of pure cinema and the performance by DiCaprio is excellent but the film as a whole is so brutal and discomfiting that many viewers may hesitate at going along for the ride.

Inspired by the life of real-life frontiersman and fur trapper Hugh Glass and based on Michael Punke’s 2002 book of the same name, “The Revenant,” set in the decidedly unsettled West of 1823, begins as the trapping expedition that Glass (DiCaprio) is leading is attacked by a band of Indians who are in pursuit of a band of white men who stormed them and kidnapped the daughter of one of their leaders. After a harrowing battle in which many lives are lost in various gruesome ways, the remains of Glass’s party escapes but is now forced to abandon their furs and take a new and far more difficult path back to their camp—a decision that puts him at odds with the hotheaded Fitzgerald (Tom Hardy), who threatens both him and his young half-Indian son, Hawk (Forrest Goodluck). While out scouting the woods ahead of the rest of the group, Glass is brutally attacked (not raped, as some of the dumber members of the press have suggested) by a grizzly bear intent on protecting her cubs. Now you and I both know that Leonardo DiCaprio was almost certainly nowhere near anything remotely ursine in nature when this scene was filmed—he probably had a French babe wearing nothing but motion-capture dots jumping on him who would be replaced later by a somewhat larger and hairier beast—but the effect is scarily convincing and will probably put most viewers off their popcorn for the remainder of the film.

Miraculously, Glass survives but just barely and when it proves impossible to bring him along without endangering the rest of the party, they decide to let him die there in peace and leave a couple of members of the group behind to watch over him and give him a proper burial.When Fitzgerald agrees to stay behind, along with Hawk and the young and callow Bridger (Will Poulter), no one seems to think this is a bad idea and they press on to camp. Maybe five seconds later, Fitzgerald decides to speed up Glass’s passing while Bridger is away, only succeeding in killing Hawk in the process. When Bridger returns, he convinces the kid to help him bury Glass and leave before they are themselves attacked by the still-pursuing Indians. Of course, not even this will stop Glass and he pulls his broken body out of the grave and begins a seemingly impossible quest across freezing rivers, dangerous mountains and the other horrors of nature in order to return to the camp in order to get his much-deserved revenge against Fitzgerald before he can get his money and vanish.

From a narrative standpoint, “The Revenant” is as simple as can be—aside from a few Malick-inspired flashbacks to Glass’s dead wife, the story moves forward at a relentless pace as it sticks to its basic through line about the struggle to survive the implacable forces of nature at their most brutish. In that regard, the film succeeds magnificently as Inarritu and cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki transform the wilds of Canada and Argentina into a kind of frozen Hell with one grim surprise after another in store for Glass—you can practically feel a chill in your own bones while watching it. (Bring a sweater to the theater—you may need it.) For some viewers, this will be more than enough but I must admit that on a certain level, I was left cold by the film. I admire the obvious effort that went into its production and I certainly responded to it on its most basic and visceral levels but at the same time, I never really warmed to it on any emotional level. To these eyes, this is essentially a jumbo-sized and super-violent version of one of those old Jack London books about people persevering against the forces of nature that I could never get into when I was forced to read them as a kid. And while the violence and bloodshed on display did not necessarily put me off, there is enough of it on display, presented in the most graphic of ways and without any sense of humor to help lighten things up (a wise move in this case), that some viewers will be deeply disturbed by it. (If there are any parents wondering if it is suitable for their kids—and I have had a couple ask me about that already—I assure you that it has been given a “R” rating for a reason.)

As for DiCaprio, his work—half performance, half endurance test—is undeniably impressive throughout. Completely subsuming his glamorous movie star persona for that of someone who is more comfortable, to a degree, with the wild than with civilization and who will do anything to avenge his son, his last real link to civilization. At the same time, we are made so aware of all the sufferings that he and his character are undergoing throughout the story that his performance threatens at times to turn into some kind of parlor trick designed to tell Academy voters “Look, I’m suffering for my art!” and it gets a little distracting at times. If he does win the Best Actor Oscar for his efforts—and he does appear to be the unquestioned front runner this year—I would be perfectly happy with that but at the same time, I would have to admit that he has given better and deeper performances in the past in such films as “Gilbert Grape,” “The Aviator” and “The Wolf of Wall Street.”

Don’t get me wrong—I like “The Revenant” and have no problem with recommending it to all but the most squeamish of viewers. That said, I cannot find it in me to apply the “masterpiece” tag in the way that others have been doing. It is a superior entertainment that looks incredible (there is an excellent chance that Lubezki may take home his third consecutive Oscar for his contributions here), has been made with an astonishing degree of skill and contains strong performances from DiCaprio and the rest of the cast. I just could not quite relate to what was going on because of my vague prejudice towards this type of narrative. It is a good film and I am glad that I saw it (and if you see it, you should make sure to see it on the big screen—this is not the kind of film that gains anything from being seen on a television monitor) but I have serious doubts that I would ever want to watch it again anytime soon.

link directly to this review at https://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=27510&reviewer=389
originally posted: 01/07/16 18:35:11
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User Comments

3/20/19 bored mom Far bloodier remake of Man in the Wilderness. Religious crap replaced by the annoying twit. 3 stars
2/12/17 morris campbell beautiful and raw but not 4 everyone 5 stars
7/29/16 Anton Kleinschmidt The worst film I have ever seen 1 stars
6/01/16 Chelsie Suspenseful and enjoyable, still room for improvement like most things 4 stars
5/19/16 Jason If you're into slow pace movie, then this is it 4 stars
5/13/16 Chelsie Tense movie with breathtaking scenes; skillfully created with all aspects hitting on point. 5 stars
4/21/16 Stephen a simple story told by a director who seeks to complicate things 3 stars
3/28/16 meep Certainly worth a look for cinematography, but still missing a certain something 3 stars
2/29/16 Christina Sam A pretentious and pompous mixup of Herzog, Malick and Tarkovsky 2 stars
2/25/16 Yelawolf Movie is painfully average. Thin plot and bad pacing 2 stars
2/17/16 Richard Pierro Rob Gonsalves, get a real job. Rough childhood perhaps? Movie is outstanding! 5 stars
2/16/16 John Boring crawl through snowy wilderness. Pointless. 2 stars
2/15/16 Michael McGrath Credulity flaws, both human and historical, are insulting. 2 stars
2/07/16 jrose I haven't seen a movie in the theatre for years, but at the prompting of a friend went to 3 stars
2/07/16 Cora Hollema boring, one dimensional, empty, trash 1 stars
2/07/16 Doug Rhymes Boring - director wears emperor's new clothes 1 stars
2/05/16 Leopold Boring and slow. A real waste of time. 2 stars
1/22/16 Orpy Still wonder how he started that fire. 4 stars
1/09/16 FireWithFire This is what "The Grey" SHOULD`VE been like ! ! !. 5 stars
1/09/16 mr.mike Wunnerful Wunnerful 5 stars
1/09/16 action movie fan very good extremely gory but thrilling old fashioned act new 4 stars
1/08/16 blockhead don't they get cold without gortex? 4 stars
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  25-Dec-2015 (R)
  DVD: 19-Apr-2016


  DVD: 19-Apr-2016

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