The Revenant (2016) – Should I Watch It?

Intro to… The Revenant
Leonardo DiCaprio does a two and a half hour long Quaalude crawl.

The Plot
A group of pelt traders get attacked by a tribe of revenge seeking Native Americans. Most of them get killed, but a select few survive. Their leader, Captain Andrew Henry (Domhnall Gleeson), turns to their guide, frontiersman Hugh Glass (Leonardo DiCaprio), to bring them to safety.

While scouting ahead, Glass gets attacked by a grizzly bear. He survives, but is injured badly. His condition worsens and Captain Henry is forced to make a tough call. The group continues while three men, including Glass’ half-native son Hawk (Forrest Goodluck), remain.

One of the men, John Fitzgerald (Tom Hardy), eventually attempts to choke Glass. Hawk intervenes but gets killed in the process. Thinking Glass is dead, Fitzgerald buries him. But he made a big error. Glass is not dead. What he is, is furious. And angry. And vengeful. He crawls out of his grave and starts his quest to kill the murderer of his son.

Should I Watch It?
The Revenant is a period piece set in 1820s America. It is a dramatic tale of survival, loss, and revenge. It is a slow-paced but emotionally turbulent rollercoaster that is set against a calm, serene, and unchanging environment.

As a film, The Revenant, has been an incredibly ambitious project. Director Alejandro González Iñárritu gave his all making this film, and he demanded the same from his actors. It shows. The cinematography is absolutely sublime; every shot looks spectacular. Shooting this movie was done under extreme physical conditions, a fact that should be acknowledged and praised.

Ironically, the high quality of the cinematography is also the cause of my first irk with this movie. Except for the horses, nearly every animal in this film was created with CGI, and you can tell. The animation becomes very apparent when placed on top of the real background. I will admit that the CGI grizzly bear was both a necessity and relatively well animated, but I can hardly say the same thing about the other animals. Also, Iñárritu thought it necessary to put nature shots between almost every scene. This heavily disrupted the flow of the movie, and also became kind of annoying. It is a movie, not a documentary on plant life.

My second irk is with the acting. Specifically, with DiCaprio’s acting. Granted, this role required a tremendous amount of effort of him. And it is easy to see that he truly gives his all in this exceedingly physically demanding role, but working hard is only half the game. His grunts are weak, his expressions are hollow, and the majority of his scenes kept reminding me of Wolf of Wall Street’s Quaalude scene. His acting performance was severely lacking.

On the other hand, Hardy was killing it. There were a few very short instances that I caught him talking in his regular voice, but for nearly the entirety of the film he stayed in character. He is completely believable playing an opportunistic and crooked hunter that is trying to get ahead in life. This performance and the breath-taking visuals are the pillars and highlights of the movie.

Irk number three is the story, or the lack thereof. The Revenant is a very simple survival revenge story that lacks any kind of interesting storytelling or excitement. There is relatively little dialogue in this movie, but unlike last year’s Mad Mad: Fury Road, little gets told. The movie heavily relies on DiCaprio’s ability to convey a story by using his eyes and body language, as well as through a couple of dream sequences, but DiCaprio fails to deliver, and the dream sequences feel pretentious and out of place. But the worst thing about the story is that it is dull. The slow pacing of the narrative combined with the underwhelming performance of the main character turns this movie into a painstakingly long drag.

The Revenant tries very hard to become the new Gladiator, and there certainly are similarities to be found, but it just does not cut it. From a filmmaking perspective, this movie should be applauded for its incredible effort and brilliance, but from an entertainment perspective it is sorely lacking. I am sorry The Revenant, three irks – you’re out.

No, don’t watch it.

Hi guys, I hope you enjoyed reading this review. If you have any comments or suggestions on what I should watch next let me know in the comment section below.

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4 responses to “The Revenant (2016) – Should I Watch It?”

  1. intrepidmuses says :

    Hey, glad that you were able to finally see The Revenant. Probably you and I are the only people in the world who thought that Tom Hardy performance on this movie was exceptional and that in many ways it surpassed Leo’s performance. After watching the movie I quipped rather factiously to a friend something like: well he just acted cold through the whole movie…I yet need to see Wolf of Wall Street to catch your reference. I also thought the movie was too long, at least half an hour too long. What made this movie for me was precisely its cinematography and the way that that the actions scenes were constructed. They fascinated me…so much that they edged Mad Max in my rankings for 2015. I read somewhere that they only used natural lighting through out filming except for one campfire scene. The sheer technical achievements of the whole spectacle successfully distracted me from the tedious and sometime unnecessarily complex plot and some of the technical aspects that you point out in your review…

    Funny how the more I think about Mad Max the more I grow to like it…I don’t think this is happening to me with The Revenant. Great point and a great review!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Remco says :

      The majority of my friends who joined me to the cinema also acknowledged Tom Hardy’s great performance, so rest assured; there are more of us.

      Over the past few months I have come across several articles about the effort and ambition that went into creating this movie, but the thing is that we, the audience, do not care about that – at least the majority does not. We care about only one thing: the end result. So when a director wants to shoot into the wild and use natural lighting, that is really cool from a movie making perspective, but the audience still just wants to be entertained – it does not matter to them. And I think many critics were too impressed with the backstory on how this was made and how incredible it looked that they forgot that storywise it is kind of a let down. I think it’s a perfect example of style over substance.

      Liked by 1 person

      • intrepidmuses says :

        I think you are absolutely right. The end result is what really matters. I still think is a beautiful cinematic tour de force but as you very well said, the story/script should take precedence.

        Most of my friends thought I was nuts…at least is good to know that there still some sanity in the Netherlands!

        Just curious have you seen Locke? It was release a year ago. Tom Hardy is in it. Worth checking it out.

        Liked by 1 person

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