Well, here we are folks, nearly at the end of our road to the Oscars, and I saved the most tedious of films for last. Zer will of course be back tomorrow with “Spotlight” to conclude our best picture nominee reviews, but I got the honor of reviewing “The Revenant.” (I win!)
Okay, anyone who I’ve spoken to about this movie probably thinks I’m being sarcastic right now, but I promise, I really wanted to review this film. I won’t promise that it was because I loved it. Let’s begin…
Of all of the journeys this Oscar season has brought us this was by far the grittiest, so it seems somewhat appropriate that it will (please, dear lord) be the role that finally gets Leonardo DiCaprio his Oscar. Although I’m hoping they surprise us and give it to him for his appearance in “Room.” It was a nuanced take on a very two-dimensional role. But I digress…
Grit is the perfect word for this movie and most of its inhabitants—a rough and tumble band of frontiersman manning the fur trade through uncharted U.S. territories in the 1820s. It’s a game of survival that’s made even more desperate when a nearby Arikara tribe attacks, searching for the chief’s kidnapped daughter, Powaqa. Among this motley crew we find Glass (Leonardo DiCaprio) and his son Hawk (Forrest Goodluck), who are by far the most familiar with this untamed land, and much to the dismay of the perpetually disgruntled Fitzgerald (Tom Hardy), the military leader of the group, Captain Henry (Domhnall Gleeson) relies on this familiarity to safely navigate them home.
Unfortunately for all, a short while after escaping the Arikara (with a few fewer pelts than Fitzgerald would have liked), their trusty guide gets a literal bear hug…which turns into a mauling. Now, before you cry spoiler, this happens in the trailer and in the first half-hour of the film. I recommend taking your time and admiring the incredible CG work. Seriously, the bear is phenomenal, and the rest of the film is a long, slow, painful, cold crawl towards its conclusion…don’t worry I’ve left you a few other animal surprises.
To say that this is subjectively a boring film wouldn’t be fair. First of all, there’s nothing subjective about film, we all bring our own experiences to it, our own perspectives, and I’m certain there are people out there who enjoy watching paint dry. I’m sure they’d love this movie too. (I kid…mostly.)
I will say this, being alone in the wilderness with nothing but Leo’s raspy wheezing (side-effect of the bear attack) and frequent staring off into space, gives you plenty of time to think. You know, think about all of the other roles you wish the Academy had given him an award for, that could have possibly spared us all the pain of sitting through “The Revenant.” I landed on “Django Unchained,” I think it showed the most range for him. Just saying, Academy.
Of course, that pondering only took a few minutes out of the eternal trudge across the frozen wasteland. So I moved onto other relevant daydreams, like how much more interesting “The Revenant” would have been told from the perspective of the son, Hawk. And how cold they all have to be. Seriously, major props to everyone who worked on this film. You could watch this movie on the hottest day of the summer outdoors and I’m pretty sure you’d still end up shivering. This is a world with zero warmth.
Okay, now I’ll put snark aside for a moment, but I think you can all see why I wanted to review this film.
Now for the nice things. Leo has more than earned this Oscar, which he will receive on Sunday night. Despite all of this film’s strange moments, unfulfilled side plots (remember Powaqa?), and bizarre pacing, Mr. DiCaprio is fantastic throughout. Really, all of the actors are, that includes Tom Hardy’s portrayal of the constantly cranky Fitzgerald, who has good reason for his crankiness. And for all of its tediousness, it is beautiful…and did I mention, the bear is awesome?