Friday, January 8, 2016

The Revenant Review: Drama Survives with Strong Performances and Tones

In 2014 (as well as 2015), director Alejandro G. Inarritu made a name for himself in the movie world. The director's film, Birdman, became a hit with moviegoers; not to mention the industry itself when the film won the academy award for best picture. So you can imagine that many would be eager to see what was in store next for Inarritu. It turns out that fans would not have to wait long as now playing in theaters is the biographical western drama: The Revenant. The movie is based on the Michael Punke's book, The Revenant: A Novel of Revenge. which captures the adventures of frontiersman Hugh Glass. The film made its debut on December 16, 2015 which gained a bigger, yet limited, release on Christmas day. Now the film can be seen everywhere; so is can this film keep Inarritu's momentum or is this drama not live up to expectations?

Dealing on one of the novel's tales, The Revenant captures Glass (Leonardo DiCaprio) on the Louisiana Purchase. Things go astray when Glass is attacked by a bear and is on the brink of death. After being carried by his fellow hunting party, Glass is left for dead by John Fitzgerald (Tom Hardy); who kills Glass' son in the process. Recovering from the incident, Glass makes his way through the harsh environment in order to get his revenge on Fitzgerald.

There is much to take in when it comes to The Revenant's plot. When it comes right down to it, this was a story about survival. Most of the film's events deal with Glass surviving the harsh elements. Survival stories are nothing new especially these days, Yet I will say that this theme worked in favor of the film. Seeing Glass surviving the wilderness was certainly thrilling to say the least. However, though this film was strong in its concepts, it did have an issue in the matter of execution. The story by no means threw me off or confuse me, but I thought it could be a bit excessive in its direction. Certain points in the story either dragged on or had little to no purpose to the overall plot. A cased example of this is the chief of the Arikia searching for his daughter. This subplot had little impact to the overall story as its payoff was practically mute. When it came to a matter of being complex there was not much to the plot of The Revenant; but this is not to say that the movie did not have an effective story.

The film featured a strong ensemble led by a solid lead. Leonardo DiCaprio had a fantastic performance as Glass. The amazing factor to DiCaprio's role was how little he actually said. Glass does not have a great deal of lines and yet this character says such much with just his expressions. That is hard feat to accomplish and so I must tip my hat to DiCaprio's hard work. The same thing, in some light, could be said about Tom Hardy as Fitzgerald. Fitzgerald was not most impressive of film antagonist as his motivations were bleak. Thankfully Hardy more then made up for this by playing the character to the best of his abilities. Domhnall Gleeson also made for a great supporting character as the hunting party captain Andrew Henry. So the performances were spot on, but I found that the characters themselves were lacking in vital areas. The problem I found in the cast was that the characters lacked in backstory as well as development. Take Will Poulter as Jim Bridger for example. Poulter had a solid role as the young frontiersman, but there was very little on this character and why he was motivated to be so helpful. Being discrete on a characters' intention is not a bad thing as long it is executed in the right way; in which this case it was not. Thankfully the strong performances more than made up for this factor's flaws.

In the area of technical elements, The Revenant definitely had its strong attributes. The score to the film was outstanding as it captured the intensity and drama that made op the film. Yet perhaps the most notable trait to this factor was the cinematography by Emmanuel Lubezki. The film featured a variety of shots that were simply beautiful; not to mention quite atmospheric. However despite the stunning imagery there were directions in the cinematography that I found questionable. One of these directions was the constant panning of the camera. This tactics did work when it came to the film's action sequences. However the film would also use this direction when characters were just talking; and in that matter the panning was just distracting. In the end the direction for The Revenant was stylish and it certainly did work, but perhaps a little too well.

I cannot say that The Revenant was a masterpiece, but was a well made film. The film had a need to be excessive and that hurt overall presentation in the long run. However the movie makes up for its shortcomings with its strong tones, great performances and its atmospheric cinematography. The Revenant may not be a film thought provoking film, but it certainly gets the job done by being unique; and it made for a solid film from Alejandro G.Inarritu.

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