Friday, 15 January 2016

Review: The Revenant

World of Blackout Film Review

The Revenant Poster

The Revenant
Cert: 15 / 156 mins / Dir. Alejandro Iñárritu / Trailer
WoB Rating: 6/7

Already generating more than its share of awards-buzz is Alejandro Iñárritu's The Revenant, the tale of a US frontier trapper who gets separated from his hunting party, attacked by a bear, attacked by a tribe of Native Americans and attacked by his own hunting party. It like a fairly arduous journey, and indeed it is. I've seen the trailer a lot recently, and I have to admit that it didn't really push any buttons for me other than the names involved. But the trailer only hints at the setting and the story, and its duration can't properly show off what the film is. Which is fantastic.

Credit where it's due (and the awards-panels of the media industry will no doubt observe this), Leonardo DiCaprio and Tom Hardy are on quite, quite magnificent form (even if Hardy goes Full Jeff Bridges™ and mumbles much of his dialogue). Both have become immensely talented actors, and I think we've still to see the best work from each of them. But what really makes the film so enjoyable*1 is the collaboration between director Iñárritu and cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki. While it's not at the level of their previous outing Birdman's seamless-take presentation, The Revenant features some of the lengthiest and most complex continuous shots I've probably ever seen. Neither Iñárritu or Lubezki are afraid to use a single camera for a single take, while often showing the audience the full 360° of the surrounding landscape. This alone meant I sat grinning like an idiot for much of the film.

Although I really don't enjoy making the distinction, I think there's more in The Revenant for the film-fan than the movie-fan. The main narrative itself is well structured and relatively linear, but it's occasionally interwoven with dreams. hallucinations, and symbolism. While it's not exactly art-house, even the main thrust of The Revenant has a ponderous, often hypnotic quality that could well disappoint anyone sitting down hoping for a punchily-paced revenge tale of the Tarantino-school*2.

But rest assured, the film's got the physicality when it needs it, too. Large stretches of the story are (necessarily) combat-based, and while Iñárritu doesn't revel in the gore of projectile and blade weapons, he certainly doesn't recoil from it, either. I've never known a collective audience audibly wince as much as they did during the film's climactic showdown.
An outstanding, if exhausting, piece of cinema, The Revenant is a hauntng and relentlessly bleak survival horror. A bit like an olden-days version of The Walking Dead but without any zombies, yet just as fraught with danger. Fantastic.

So, watch this if you enjoyed?
Django Unchained, The Hateful Eight, Birdman.

Should you watch this in a cinema, though?
For the cinematography alone, yes.

Does the film achieve what it sets out to do?

Is this the best work of the cast or director?
No, but it's up there…

Will I think less of you if we disagree about how good/bad this film is?
Probably not.

Yes, but is there a Wilhelm Scream in it?
There's not, even though the number of arrows and horses in use means it's the perfect movie for one.

Yes, but what's the Star Wars connection?
Level 1: The Revenant stars none other than General Hux himself, Domnhall Gleeson.

Oh, and let's just say there's "a Taun-Taun scene" in it, as well :P

And if I HAD to put a number on it…

*1 Okay, maybe not enjoyable… satisfying?

*2 Although I didn't rush out to question their reasons, there were a couple of walk-outs at my screening. On one hand, this was an Unlimited Card preview, so the patrons in question hadn't necessarily paid anything extra to be there and would feel less aggrieved at giving up on a movie. But on the other, I find card-holders to be generally more receptive to different genres and styles, since they've bought the subscription precisely because they love the cinema. Maybe it was just Tom's mumbling?

• ^^^ That's dry, British humour, and most likely sarcasm or facetiousness.
• Yen's blog contains harsh language and even harsher notions of propriety. Reader discretion is advised.
• This is a personal blog. The views and opinions expressed here represent my own thoughts (at the time of writing) and not those of the people, institutions or organisations that I may or may not be related with unless stated explicitly.

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