Last year director Alejandro González Iñárritu shocked the world with his multiple Oscar-winning film Birdman, which is considered by a lot of people to be one of the most innovative and best movies to come out in decades. I would agree with that notion and after the success of Birdman, film fans around the world were intrigued by the idea of his next film, The Revenant, which had its wide release this past weekend. It almost sounded too good to be true; the reigning best-director winner at the Oscars is directing a revenge story starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Tom Hardy! This movie automatically became one of the highly anticipated movies of 2015, I know for me it was, and it is safe to say that expectations were really high. Well I’ve finally seen The Revenant and while it is a really good movie, I don’t think it quite lives up to the hype and promise that we all thought it would. Nevertheless, it is still one of the better movies of the year and there is good reason for it.
Obviously I have some issues with The Revenant, as it didn’t live up to my expectations but that’s because they were so high. Considering the film on its own, setting the expectations aside, it is an incredibly told story and has elements in it that are nothing short of genius. However, there are also elements in the film that are not handled very well.
Let’s take a look at both the positives and negatives of The Revenant, starting with the good stuff!
Visuals– One thing that cannot be denied is that this movie is visually stunning and beautiful. At times it feels like you’re watching National Geographic with all of the amazing shots of nature. Just like in Birdman, although not as much, the tracking shot is heavily utilized in The Revenant and it really worked for the type of feel they were going for. There is also a negative I have that has to do with the visuals and their affect on the overall film but as far as them standing on their own, there is some truly gorgeous cinematography in The Revenant.
The Performances– The Revenant stars arguably two of the top ten actors working in Hollywood in Leonardo DiCaprio and Tom Hardy. Some would even say that they are two of the top five! I personally believe that DiCaprio is the best and most consistent actor working today and Hardy is arguably my second or third favorite guy in the business. It’s easy to see why The Revenant was so high on my most anticipated list for 2015, I had it at number three, as it had all of the ingredients for a potential masterpiece, especially the two lead actors. DiCaprio’s performance is something very different than I expected but it is really powerful. He doesn’t talk as much as I thought he would but the performance is all in his facial expressions and body language which he did a phenomenal job at! Hardy might have stole the movie from DiCaprio, he was do damn good! The performance that stands out the most to me might be surprising since it is not either of the two leads, that is Domhnall Gleeson’s performance. I really like his character in this film, especially when it gets to the third act, and it is something that I haven’t seen from him before. This guy is on a roll in the past year with movies like Ex Machina, The Revenant and of course as General Hux in Star Wars: The Force Awakens. I will be excited to see any film that he is in in the future and that has a lot to do with his performance in The Revenant. All props go to Iñárritu for yet again directing the hell out of a great ensemble cast.
Battle Scenes & Violence– There isn’t a lot of scenes in the movie where something fast-paced and violent is going on, which will play into my negatives, but when there is something going that is exciting, it’s pretty damn exciting! I’ll try to limit what I spoil in talking about this aspect of the movie but I do have to get into some specifics about the details of these scenes in order to explain what I enjoyed about them. So if you’re somebody who hasn’t seen the movie and doesn’t want anything spoiled for them, then skip ahead to the negatives. Okay, you’ve been warned!
About fifteen minutes into the movie (I’m guessing) there is a scene where DiCaprio’s camp gets invaded by Native-Americans and it is a brutal action scene that had a lot more violence than I was expecting going into this movie. This is an element of the movie that I might have enjoyed the most, after the performances, as it has arrows flying into people’s skulls and several hyper violent death scenes. I think this made the movie feel realistic and it brought an energy to the movie that is lacking in some of the other scenes. I wish there would’ve been more scenes like this. There is also the bear attack scene, which most people have seen snippets of in the trailer, which was done so incredibly well. I knew this scene was coming but I did not expect it to be as violent as it was or last as long as it did. DiCaprio’s character, Hugh Glass, initially gets mauled by the bear and isn’t injured too badly but once you think the bear might be leaving him alone, it comes back and this is when Glass gets really messed up with multiple deep scratch wounds on his back and even having his throat ripped open by the bear’s teeth. This is honestly one of the best scenes in a movie all year and it is definitely the most entertaining scene in the whole movie for me. The last scene involving a violent battle is literally the last scene of the movie. That is the final showdown between Hugh Glass (DiCaprio) and John Fitzgerald (Tom Hardy), which, as far as the action goes, is awesome! First of all, it’s just satisfying to finally get this moment once the movie reaches it. I would consider The Revenant a very slow burn leading up to its finale and it’s so cool when this moment finally arrives. It’s not a perfect fight scene but there is some really cool, violent and gory things that happen in it. I do have some negatives regarding this scene, however, and I will address those under my negatives but as far as supplying entertainment for most of the fight, it did the job.
There are several other small positives for me throughout the film but the four I mentioned above are my top ones. For the most part The Revenant has been a divisive film among critics and fans. It is getting more critic love than fan love from what I know and I believe some of the negatives I have are the same reasons why a lot of people aren’t enjoying it. Let’s take a look at these negatives.
Slow Pace & Drawn-Out Shots of Nature– I have no problem with “slow” movies as long as the story and the performances are compelling. The problem with The Revenant is, yes, it has great actors who give great performances with a really good story but most of the time what is shown on screen is not the actors or something that progresses the story but long, drawn-out shots of natural scenery. I do appreciate the beauty of nature and there’s no denying that the scenery in The Revenant is gorgeous from start to finish but at times it was very distracting and took me out of the movie. There is one scene in particular that drags on for what felt like minutes of the camera just following a waterfall upstream. Scenes like this are what killed the momentum of the story and made it feel like a totally different movie. I wanted to see the action, see the performances and see the story progress, instead I got at least a handful of tracking shots through nature that totally took me out of the story and killed any momentum it had going at the time. This is arguably my biggest flaw in The Revenant.
Limiting Leo– Earlier in my review I praised DiCaprio’s performance and it is truly incredible. However, I personally thought he was limited in his role. You might ask; How is that possible? He’s on screen for a majority of the movie. This is true but I think great performances rely a lot on dialogue and he didn’t really speak much in this movie and when he did speak it was mostly in a Native-American language. He literally has less than twenty lines in English if I recall correctly. Please do not misunderstand me, I believe he gave one of the best performances of his career, which is saying a lot, but I would’ve preferred if he had more dialogue in English.
Anticlimactic Ending– I knew going into The Revenant that it was going to all come down to the finale between DiCaprio and Hardy. For me, the way a movie ends really determines my overall impression of it. Like I stated in my positives, there are some really cool things that happen in their final fight at the end but overall I was disappointed with it and the ending of the film. The overall fight was just not as physical as I wanted it to be, they were just crawling around and barely fighting. I expected there to be a full-out brawl between them and I understand why there was not, they were both heavily injured at this point, but I wish they were more physically able to fight in this scene. The next thing I’m going to discuss is heavily spoilery, so read ahead at your own risk.
On top of the disappointment of the fight, I was not happy with the overall ending of the movie. The whole entire point of the movie and the horrific journey DiCaprio’s character goes through is so that he can ultimately fulfill his revenge on Hardy’s character. As an audience member I wanted to see Glass (DiCaprio) go all out and give Fitzgerald a brutal death. Instead he ends up “taking the high road” and letting another character in the film kill him. Some people might look at this as a positive since the character chose to not be a murderer and kill the man who killed his son (not a spoiler, it’s in the trailer) but I personally thought this was more of a cop-out for the story rather than a noble decision.
The three aspects I mentioned above are my main concerns for The Revenant, however, there are smaller elements in the film that I thought could’ve been handled better as well.
Overall, I do believe The Revenant is a really good film. It is a movie that some people might not enjoy though, due to the slow pace and drawn-out scenes. It is a little long as well so if you are impatient, it might not be a film for you. The performances, cinematography and few action scenes are all incredible and definitely make the film worth seeing in my opinion.
I give The Revenant an 8 out of 10.
Do you agree with my positives and negatives or do you disagree? Let me know what you all thought of The Revenant in the comment section!