Monday, January 11, 2016

The Revenant Review

It's been a good weekend for The Revenant. After a great run in limited release, it overperformed in it's expansion as it took in $39.8 million, almost besting Star Wars: The Force Awakens' fourth weekend take of $42.4 million. It topped off the weekend by winning three Golden Globes: Best Picture - Drama, Best Actor - Drama, and Best Director. That Best Picture win was especially surprising and impressive. Does that mean director Alejandro Gonazález Iñárritu will make it two years in a row with a Best Picture win at the Oscars or is that Golden Globe win a fluke? We'll find that out on February 28th. As for now, it's time to tell you my personal opinion of the movie. This is actually the final movie from 2015 that I felt needed to see before revealing my top 10 favorite movies of the year. The big reason I wanted to wait for this one is not just because of the good reviews, but Iñárritu's movie from last year, Birdman, was my second favorite movie of 2014. I've been excited for this one since I heard of its existence.

The Revenant is the true story of a group of fur trappers in the early 1800's. There's a ton of fascinating themes and stories that take place throughout the movie, the biggest of which is a survival movie centered on Leonardo DiCaprio. I'm not going to spoil the setup of this movie because I think not knowing that setup will make for a more emotional journey, but I will say that does involve a bear. That part is no secret as I've known about it for about a year now and it's been in just about every trailer and TV spot. Leo gets attacked by a bear. And he doesn't just get attacked by that bear. He gets mauled by that bear. It's a rather terrifying sequence that leads to his group leaving him for dead. Thus we get a man vs. nature survival story that's rather brutal. However, this isn't your typical survival movie where it's just one man trying to survive for most of the movie with a few side characters showing up for a scene or two at the beginning and end. We spend quite a bit of time on several of the side characters, which makes for a very well-rounded, deep movie. But like I said, I'm going to leave most of that a surprise for you to discover on your own.

The best adjective that could be used to describe this movie is breathtaking. Last year Iñárritu did a fascinating thing with Birdman as he combined some really long shots with some magical editing to give the movie the appearance of being done in one shot. This year the fascinating thing he did with The Revenant is shoot the whole movie in natural light, meaning that the only light they used was the natural light of the sun or fires that were lit. Adding to that, most of the movie is shot at dusk or at night. If they didn't get the shot that they wanted, they would just go back and shoot the scene the next day and hope that they get it right. I'm sure this took a lot of patience and persistence, but the final result is some of the best cinematography I've ever seen. I mean, I have no problem with cinematographers creating their own beautiful scenes, but doing things this way and mostly at that time of day means they were able to capture the honest, real beauty of nature. As Iñárritu said in an interview with, "It's the time of the day when God speaks; you hear the wind in the trees, you feel the cold, you smell the fear."

I like being out in nature. I also like photography. And yes, I really love photography of nature. When I'm out in nature, I make sure to have my camera and I'm usually snapping tons of pictures so that I can get the perfect shot. By no means am I even close to being a professional photographer, which is why I also love looking at pictures and videos from actual professional photographers. This is a beautiful world we live and this movie did a great job of capturing that beauty. Even if the story in this movie was sub-par, I would've come out with a positive feel about the movie with how beautiful the landscapes they capture in this movie are. Yet at the same time, nature is also very brutal and unforgiving at times. Leo's character in this movie is in a very bad situation. We're in the middle of the winter and he's trying to survive on his own after being mauled by a bear. In addition to capturing the beauty of nature, the way in which they shot this movie also made it so they captured the terror of nature. The movie felt very cold. Much of the movie was pretty dim. Thus it felt like you were there with Leo trying to survive. This effected me mentally as I was watching and I actually felt cold, so I put on my coat. No joke with that. Major props to this movie for pulling off what they did.

The cinematography is so good that I said that I would've come out of this movie with a positive feeling even if the story wasn't that great. But that's the thing. The story is really good. The themes in this movie are really fantastic and I love how things turn out. Much of this is propelled by the fantastic acting throughout. Much has been said about Leo's acting performance in this movie and for good reason. Leo is one of the best actors in our age because he completely immerses himself into every one of his roles. Even though he is one of the most recognizable actors, when I watch any of his movies, I see a character and not an actor. For this movie, he wasn't Leo pretending to be stuck in the wilderness on his own. He was Hugh Glass and he was a badly injured man near death in the freezing cold winter. He didn't do a whole lot of talking for several reasons, but he didn't need to talk in order to pull off an amazing performance, which is what he does. In fact, in a very long list of fantastic performances, this performance stands out as one of Leo's best. There's a reason why many people are upset that Leo hasn't won an Oscar yet, especially after five nominations. I really hope this is his year.

Leo isn't the only person to give an amazing performance in this movie, though. There's quite a long list of great performances. I will briefly speak of three. The first is Tom Hardy. Speaking of Oscars, there's a man who's due for a nomination. I hope his name is called this week on nomination morning. Yes, Tom Hardy is pretty talented at portraying characters you can't understand at times and that's the case here again, but his villain in the movie is so fascinating. These are men who really are victims of their context and time. You can't agree with the choices he makes, but you can understand where he's coming from and why he does what he does. As I've stated many times in the last year, those are the best villains. Speaking of a character stuck in a moral dilemma, Will Poulter is a character who wants to make the right decisions and knows Tom Hardy is doing wrong, but is stuck in a terrible spot and is forced to follow Hardy. Finally there is Domnhall Gleeson, who I've loved for a long time. Finally I can use a different reference other than pointing to him being Bill Weasley from Harry Potter to get you to recognize him. It's General Hux from Star Wars! Once again Gleeson gives a very different performance and once again he does great at it.

If you are only a casual movie-goer who only heads out to the theater once or twice a month at most, I do think this is a movie that you should give a shot to. However, if you are a fan of film, specifically the film making process, then this is a must see. Not only is this a great movie with a great story and great themes, but this is a beautifully crafted film. The cinematography is breathtaking. The camera work is fantastic. The use of natural light adds so much to the theme and feel of the movie. The costume designs, makeup, and hairstyles are perfect. The direction of the film is amazing. This is definitely Iñárritu's movie and I love what he does with it. Leo gives his all in this role and is very deserving of an Oscar win. But he's not the only actor who deserves praise. Tom Hardy, Will Poulter, and Domnhall Gleeson all add a very important depth to movie. All of them give what I call Oscar-worthy performances. If I were to pick only one to stand along Leo, I'd go with Hardy, but Gleeson and Poulter deserve to be noticed as well. There's a reason why I waited to see this movie before doing my best movies of 2015 list, because this will probably be on there. My grade for The Revenant is a 9.5/10.

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