Wednesday, February 24, 2016

The Slow Death Of The Revenant.

The Good: Scenery, Moments of performance
The Bad: Boring, Light on character development
The Basics: The Revenant is a tiresome survivalist film that belabors the death of yet another of character played by Leonardo DiCaprio.

Perhaps the reason I am not overly excited about this year's Best Picture Oscar race is that some of the nominees are genres that do not overly thrill me. The Revenant is chief among the films that I had no inherent interest in. Man vs. nature films are a tougher sell for me and The Revenant has been analogized to The Grey (reviewed here!), with Leonardo DiCaprio replacing Liam Neeson at the top and a bear as the film's primary antagonist.

In actuality, The Revenant is a period survival piece and it is easy to argue that the film is garnering so much attention this year because it is the latest film by Alejandro Gonzales Inarritu, who wrote and directed Birdman (reviewed here!) last year. The Revenant is beautifully shot, but its nomination for Best Picture does seem like a courtesy nomination based on Birdman's success. The adaptation of the novel by Michael Punke is gruesome and boring.

Hugh Glass is a fur trader in 1820 whose camp is attacked by natives. The hunting party is caught off guard by a tribe that sweeps through and murders almost everyone working there. Hugh and a few of his coworkers manage to escape to the boat. Captain Henry takes Glass's advice and evacuates the men from the boat and they hide the pelts to try to elude the native hunting party. The natives are hunting Powaqa, a woman taken from the village.

When Glass is about to kill a bear cub, the bear's mother comes and tears him apart. Glass manages to kill the mother bear and survive, thanks in part to the hunting party finding him. When carrying Glass's body becomes untenable, Captain Henry wants to put Glass out of his misery, but is unable to. He bribes Fitzgerald, Bridger, and Glass's son, Hawk, to stay with him. Fitzgerald tries to kill Glass and shortly thereafter, the hunters leave Glass for dead. While Glass fights for survival, he stumbles upon Powaqa and as he clings to life, he does what he can to return her to the search party hunting for her.

No doubt, Mark Smith, Punke, and Inarritu would describe The Revenant as their reinvention of Moby Dick with the hunt for Powaqa and the determination to stay alive filling the niches of the white whale and the survival instinct that the famous novel utilizes. But, the truth is, The Revenant is a man-heavy piece that plods along until it finally, mercifully, ends. The journey is not at all pleasant and the characters are not engaging enough to captivate the viewer. Indeed, outside the cache that winning the Best Picture gave Inarritu, it is hard to see how The Revenant even got made. I cannot figure the demographic the film might appeal to; it is long, slow, miserable, and lacks a unique statement or core to drive the viewer to empathy.

That said, Leonardo DiCaprio is fine as Glass and Tom Hardy once again reinvents his entire being to portray the villainous Fitzgerald. Alejandro Gonzales Inarritu makes The Revenant look good, but the spectacle aspect of the film is simplistic and uninteresting; the average nature documentary has equally good cinematography. So, the failure to present a story or interesting characters or performances that one wants to watch for their greatness makes The Revenant two and a half hours of wasted time.

For other works with Will Poulter, please visit my reviews of:
The Maze Runner
We're The Millers
The Chronicles Of Narnia: The Voyage Of The Dawn Treader


For other movie reviews, please check out my Film Review Index Page for an organized listing!

© 2016 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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