The Revenant ★★★★

Unflinchingly brutal, relentless, beautiful, and challenging... there is so much to say and so much to praise about this near-masterpiece from Alejandro G. Iñárritu. 

While traveling back to their village after an attack on their camp — the attack being of course filmed in grand, sweeping takes by Emmanuel Lubezki who will most likely make history at this year's Academy Awards — Hugh Glass, an American fur-trapper and frontiersman in the early 1800s (played by a commandingly brilliant and definite-oscar-nominee Leonardo DiCaprio), wanders off from the rest of his men and finds himself alone in the woods when he’s brutally ripped to literal-shreds-of-flesh by a grizzly bear in one of the most abrasively horrifying man vs. nature scenes I’ve ever seen in film (best CGI ever?).
His fellow clansmen (including a surprisingly good Will Poulter, a bothersome Domhnall Gleeson [I’m still not a fan], and a once again brilliant Tom Hardy) quickly find Glass and consider him dead, or if not completely dead then damn close enough.
Their journey continues, but Glass’ ends right there.
…Or that’s what was supposed to happen.

But wait, this movie stars Leonardo DiCaprio so the guy’s not dead...(we’ve all seen the trailer right?), and what follows is the several-week-long journey of revenge that this broken man takes to hopefully, one day, find his vengeance. And boy does he gets put through it all, let me tell you. (“The Revenant or: And You Thought YOU Had a Bad Week!”)

The amount of filmmaking craft that’s present at every second of the film is enough for you to have a sensory overload. Visually you will be stunned at every second. There simply is no weak or lesser shot in the film. In the attack on their land towards the beginning of the film, the camera spins, soars, and creeps across the land in one glorious take as arrows smash into the trunks of trees and tear through the faces of men, all made that much more immersive by the incredible sound design. And as far as production design, it might as well have been filmed in the early 1800s. Stunning doesn't even begin to describe it.

The development of these multi-faceted characters comes across as factually grounded and believable in the context of the story. Without fail or falter, “The Revenant” beautifully presents to us the complex world we live in today. Every being has a story, everyone has a good side and a bad side. There’s no plain evil just like there's no plain good (this isn't Marvel), and subconsciously as an audience, you root for everyone, which makes each bone that's snapped, arrow shot and bullet fired, that much more painful to endure.

It’s a tough, draining, long ride. It’s a draining, long ride. It’s a long ride. It’s long.

Yes. That’s where my issue lies. It's a bit long.

You’re thinking to yourself, that’s it? Well, maybe when you see it you’ll understand. But let me help you see where I’m coming from.
In order to understand, I think it’s important for you to know, if you didn’t already, that Hugh Glass was a real man. I urge you to NOT look up anything about Hugh Glass before watching the film (again, DO NOT RESEARCH HIM) but I’ll tell you that he was born in 1780, approximately, and that there are several well-known facts about his life: We know that during that time in American history there were intense battles between the Natives, Americans, and French over land and pelt. We know that he was badly injured by a grizzly bear in the year 1823, and that he was left to die by his own people. And we know what happens at the end, which I won’t spoil for you here. That’s pretty much all that is known for a fact. But a lot of the six week journey that comes in between, we really don’t know all that much about.

Ah. There’s your film. From there you can make any story you want, being safe in the comfort zones of the truth that are bookending this wonderfully intriguing story. Sounds like the perfect starting point for its cinematic treatment, right? Unfortunately, the material just isn’t all one hundred percent there to completely justify the length of this film. To me it's about 85% there. Even Chivo’s first to last frame brilliance can’t save this film from feeling just a tad over-long.

Don’t get me wrong, it uses a lot of it’s time showcasing man vs. nature beautifully, with the main occurrence being these beautiful recurring dream/fantasy sequences (yep, dream sequences, you can start freaking out now) that unfortunately didn't come often enough, for my taste. It just took a little longer than I wanted it to to get from point A to point B, and many of you will not be bothered with this, but it certainly got to me, and was the one major thing that was holding me back from screaming on the streets of New York following the screening, “The Revenant is a MASTERPIECE!”.

But look. Literally the only time my body moved during this film was when I either had to squirm in my seat out of pure excitement, or flinch/gag because of something gruesome happening on screen. Otherwise, I was completely frozen in a state of cinematic-awe. It's a beautiful tale of human nature, and how often those two things, humans and nature, can be the worst things for each other.

Nature giveth, nature taketh away.

For now, watch some good films to tide you over (James White James White James White), but rest assured that yes indeed.... The hype for "The Revenant" is so beyond real.

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