Film review: “The Revenant” (2016)

revenant-gallery-16-gallery-imageFirst and foremost, this amazing film holds some unexpected surprises along with what was highly touted in the pre-release reviews. The biggest surprise was the performance of Tom Hardy, one of the very best emerging stars. I really think Hardy’s performance exceeds the otherwise wonderful showing of Leonardo DiCaprio, who has little dialog, mostly non-verbal interpretation. Hardy is in the running for Supporting Actor but might be a long shot because of his famous reluctance to promote himself. In my opinion, of the many reasons to see this wonderful film, Tom Hardy is a top draw.

The second surprise in this film is the absolutely incredible cinematography by camera genius Emmanuel Lubezki. I don’t believe I have seen anything in the league of this photography since the old days of David Lean using antiquated technology.

This is definitely a “Director’s Film”. Alejandro Iñárritu through his cinematographer Lubezki decided to make the conditions of this story exactly as they would have been in the original circumstances. He set the environment exactly as he wanted it, then hired the best actors in the world and set them free to interpret the basic story within that environment. Lubezki used only natural light for every single scene, which means that under the circumstances, filming was only possible a few hours a day creating an incredibly immersive and visceral setting

Shot in lower Argentina and Canada, every single scene of revenant was filmed in brutally freezing conditions, putting the actors through an incredible wringer. There were no scenes with outside lighting. The bear bite scene was, however, said to be CGI provided by Lucas. It is incredibly real.

In the past, trust in a director has resulted in tough conditions for actors to get it right. In his quest for perfection, Stanley Kubrick put Malcolm McDowell through cracked ribs, scratched corneas and a broken nose in the famous face-in-the-pasta scene for Clockwork Orange (1971). On a Charlie Rose interview, vegetarian Leonardo DiCaprio said he had to eat a chunk of raw buffalo liver, learn to shoot a musket, build a fire from scratch, speak two Native American languages and study ancient healing techniques. DiCaprio calls Revenant the most arduous performance of his career.

All things considered, this is an absolutely amazing “must see” film, nominated for an astounding 12 Academy Awards, tying it with such classics as Ben-Hur, On the Waterfront and Gladiator. I don’t think there is any serious competition for the top four Oscars, but then it must be remembered that the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences is pretty much populated by old white men (like me) with their accompanying biases. The AMPAS has been egregiously wrong in the past, as in 1963 when they robbed Peter O’Toole of his Oscar for “Lawrence of Arabia”. A theft that, had those responsible been discovered, they’d all still be in jail today. So we shall see what we shall see in February 2016.

I give this film a hearty FIVE of five gory bear bites.

Highly recommended by me. You will not see cinematography like this in any other contemporary film. Emmanuel Lubezki is in a class by himself. Somewhere David Lean is smiling.



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