Film Review: The Revenant

Revenant; (noun)
               a person who has returned, especially supposedly from the dead.

If I was a little more literate, and had known the definition whilst watching the trailer, I may have been slightly more intrigued to watch this film. As it was, I wasn’t, and was dragged along by a friend. In fact the trailer inspired nothing within me and I was in fact slightly more disturbed that Leonardo needed professional help to sort out that clear breathing problem he was having. (Watch the trailer if you want to understand the joke, or don’t if you enjoy being slightly confused.)

The film begins in some unknown wilderness where a group of hunters sourcing animal pelts, are on edge about being out in the open, and as it turns out they are right to be. Less than five minutes into the film and we are exposed to a gruesome scene where Native Americans begin killing without mercy or explanation, with the Americans only barley managing to hold their own. The violent scene is equalled in it’s beauty by the long shot that allows us to watch it all unfold.

Only a quarter of the men manage to escape with their lives and must now take a treacherous route to an outpost where they can regroup, without being caught by the Native Americans who are on their own mission to find the chiefs missing daughter Powaqa.

The Americans are being led by Henry Glass (Leonardo DiCaprio) a man shrouded in mystery. Able to speak the language of the Natives, and with a son who has their colouring, John Fitzgerald questions him at every turn. With only his own well-being on his mind, when Glass’ life if put in Fitzgerald’s hands by a crewel twist of fate, it doesn’t take him long to turn the situation to his favour.

Where to start with this unnecessarily long film?

I guess I have to comment first on a theme that really annoyed me, and that was the unnecessarily long “artsy” shots of the moon, the sunrise, frozen plants and mostly forest trees. I was unsure what reaction they were trying pull from the audience, as these shots lasted anywhere between six and twelve seconds and seemed neither plot driven or emotional. And the same in a way can be said for the sub-plots. It seemed that they existed for the sole purpose of giving validation to the finale, as opposed to existing as a separate entity that happened to cross paths with the main arch. This made the film feel disjointed, when we strayed away from Henry’s journey, it felt as if someone had changed the channel without asking,

What was nice is that there is no sense of anything but the present, it felt like the barren wasteland was the entire world it helped you feel part of the film, trapped with the characters under the bell jar. However the illusion of living in the present with an absence of time can only stay intact if the existence of the fact is never acknowledged, once it is, you find yourself involuntarily thinking back through the entire film in order to have a mental timeline. A distracting thought that can leave you missing a number of scenic shots of trees.

The cultural elements added another dimension to the film. Henry Glass speaking soothingly in the language of the Native Americans to his son, and in his dream sequences felt melodic. In fact I have to admit that Leonardo DiCaprio’s acting in this film was phenomenal. It was only in retrospect as the credits began to roll, that I was overcome with only a fraction of the mental exhaustion he must have felt playing Henry Glass. Hat’s off to your sir.

It took me a long time to realise that I really did enjoy this film. When it comes to the Award Season Elite, I analyse and over think to make sure it was I who decided that I liked the film, and not my subconscious being conditioned to think it will be amazing because of its nominations.
After all, did you know that although The Revenant had a nationwide release of January 8th 2016, it was released in selected cinemas in the USA on December 25th 2015 in order to make itself eligible for the 88th Academy Awards?

Sometime you have to ask yourself, if it’s for the audience or if it’s for the nomination.

Stay safe this award season.


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