The Revenant (2015) – Film Review

The Revenant - Movie poster

© 2015 – Twentieth Century Fox. Image used under fair use.

The Revenant (2015)
Directed by Alejandro González Iñárritu
Written by Mark L. Smith and Alejandro González Iñárritu

Imdb summary: A frontiersman on a fur trading expedition in the 1820s fights for survival after being mauled by a bear and left for dead by members of his own hunting team.

Last Sunday night my boyfriend and I watched “The Revenant” at the movies, and before I say anything else I just have to say: This is definitively a film where you choose the cinematic experience, DO NOT download some low quality DVD-rip and watch it on your computer. If you want to see as many Oscar-nominated films as possible before the ceremony, this is the one you choose, it would be a sin to not watch this in the best quality and surroundings as possible. I simply have to gush over the stunning visuals before I move on to the story itself.

As you have probably gathered, this is simply a beautiful visual experience. Watching “The Revenant” was almost like watching a very high quality nature documentary and feature film combined, the film takes its time to let you enjoy the beautiful scenery. The film was shot using almost exclusively using natural light, which absolutely paid off, even though it made the filming period a lot longer (only so much light during the day) as the beautiful snowy scenes really came into their own in the wonderful cold and bright winter sun. When watching you get the feel that the surroundings and setting is as much part of the story as the events that are unfolding there, and cinematographer Lubezki treats them with great respect. An Oscar nomination well deserved! The same can be said for editor Stephen Mirrione, who seamlessly sews it all together, adding to the sense that story and setting are one.

A shot of Leonardo DiCaprio in "The Revenant"

“The Revenant” is a stunning visual experience

One of the most talked about scenes in the film is the bear-attack, and again I’m full of praise. For the past few years no matter how far we’ve come regarding CGI, it just doesn’t look 100% right when you have something or someone computer made interacting with a real human character in the same scene, especially when it’s a close interaction like touching and fighting. This is not the case with “The Revenant”. I have no idea how they did it, but that attack scene looks completely real. It’s worth the talk, it’s worth the hype, it’s worth the praise! I know it’s CGI, but something inside me is still a little convinced they just let a bear loose on DiCaprio, and that he willingly let them. I mean, if you let a bear almost kill you, you have to win that Oscar!

When saying that the plot it self is the weakest part of the whole film, it’s by no means an insult to the story, just again a proof of how amazing the visuals and acting are. They are the strongest points, but the story is also gripping, intense and never leaves you bored. Before watching a film that’s over 150 minutes long you’re always a bit apprehensive, and lately it seems like almost all big new releases have to be around this playtime, and frankly, in most cases 120 is enough. I was never bored for a minute though, even though the film is by no means action-packed throughout or moving high-speed through everything. It takes its time, but does so beautifully. I know there are divided views about the plot, and I can understand some of the reservations some have, because yes: a lot of the happenings in “The Revenant” are quite far fetched, and even though it’s inspired by true events there is a lot elements, some quite unrealistic, added to the film. I don’t mind myself, but I understand that people enjoy storytelling in different ways, and that type of realism is more important in some camps than other. My own justification of the “far-fetchedness” of it all is that this film sets out to tell the ultimate survival story, and I’ll accept a bit of difference in the physical laws in our own world and in this epic movie world. Though, the characters could maybe have tried just a tad harder to stay away from the water when it’s freezing around them and there’s nowhere to dry their clothes.. But details, details.

I quickly mentioned that the acting is great in this film, and I truly believe that this if finally DiCaprio’s time to win that Oscar statuette. Although his actual spoken dialogue is scarce, he does so much through, and of course, acting is so much more than just speaking lines. I truly felt his anger, hurt, pain and emotions, and above all, I truly felt cold. I am yet to see all the nominees for Best Actor this year, but so far Leo is my bet and hope! Tom Hardy also does a brilliant job as John Fitzgerald, the unsympathetic antagonist, and does not represent him as a one-note character, though we may not like him that much it’s also possible to understand his actions throughout the film. Also a nomination well deserved, though Hardy is in my opinion rivaled by Mark Rylance’s great performance in “Bridge of Spies”.

In conclusion, The Revenant is truly one of, if not the greatest films of 2015, especially in the visual department. It’s a truly epic story of survival that at times may require some suspension of disbelief, but its few weak points are saved by the brilliant actors and the always present stunning cinematography. It’s definitively a film worth seeing, and worthy of a true cinematic experience.

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