by Eduardo Victoria
Walking out at the end of Mexican director Alejandro G. Iñarritu’s latest film, I was taken by its visual grandeur, stunning cinematography, and incredible performances. Then I found myself questioning why the film needs to be two hours and thirty-six minutes in length, when it probably could have been wrapped up much sooner than that. Upon further thought, this film would have absolutely zero legs were it not for the performance of Leonardo DiCaprio as frontiersman Hugh Glass.
Taking place in 1820, Glass (DiCaprio) is on a fur trapping expedition somewhere deep within the icy tundra of the Louisiana Purchase. Tensions run high when they are attacked and badly crippled by tribes native to the area. Upon further attempts to get back to civilization and escape future attacks, Glass is mauled by a bear and has to be carried back to safety, trying
the patience of John Fitzgerald (Tom Hardy). Growing impatient, Fitzgerald leaves Glass for dead after killing his son. Having to crawl all the way back to civilization without being able to walk and nothing but his own knowledge of the wilderness to aid him, Glass sets out to avenge his son.
A simple premise and an amazing cast can go a long way, but this time around, Iñarritu might have stretched them too long. Continuing the usage of abstract imagery the director showed audiences in his prior film, Birdman, we see glimpses of Glass’ dead wife. About a half hour too long, there are enormous stretches where nothing really happens. The savior, if that, is the amazing cinematography by two time Oscar winner Emanuel Lubezki, who will more than likely get his third Golden Statue for this film. Shot entirely with natural light, the movie is the most beautifully shot you’ll see at the cinema all year.
DiCaprio, more so than Tom Hardy, gives himself fully to the role. We feel his pain, see his torment, however when it came to playing a father, I wasn’t entirely sold. Hell bent on giving one thrilling performance, Leo lacks a sensitivity that was needed for some of the film’s more emotionally impactful scenes. The supporting cast of Domhnall Gleeson and Will Poulter are excellent whenever they appear on screen. Peppered throughout were also a very multi-layered score by Ryuichi Sakamoto and Carsten Nicolai. Being a film with more bite than bark, the most visceral scene in the movie will stay with you long after the credits roll.
The bear attack is the most pulse-pounding scene in the entire film that initiates the hell to come.
The Revenant is a visceral experience, but not much beyond that. What could have been a story of survival or emotional anguish gets lost in the mish-mash of what Iñarritu believes are two voices. In a year full of some very magnificent westerns (The Hateful Eight and Bone Tomahawk are must see films), The Revenant is the most ponderous in terms of its story telling and visually powerful of them all.
Rated R. 156 minutes. Now playing at Cinemark Downtown 10.