“The Revenant”

“The Revenant”
Directed by Alejandro González Iñárritu

200_sI’ve taken a couple days to review this, as I thought I should sit with it for a minute before I tried to put my lasting opinions on paper (or in the ether). But my feelings remain the same as they did upon initial viewing. “The Revenant” is a masterpiece of film craft. Intense, grand, old-timey without being old-fashioned, socially relevant, and presenting violence with eerily ballet-like choreography. But when all is said and done, it’s just not as satisfying as it is grand. It’s kind of like going to that restaurant that you’ve heard so much about and, when you complete your meal, it’s almost great, but you leave thinking, “that should’ve been better.” In essence, “The Revenant” felt a lot like “Gravity” in the Old West.

The script is a mixed bag. The second act is at least twenty minutes too long, which is forgivable given the vistas and aural soundscapes Inarritu provides us. But the first and third acts are thrilling and engrossing….just kind of wish they’d get to that third act a bit faster. Also, the POV wanders a bit too much for me which explains the overlong bits.

The film is insanely gorgeous and cries out to be seen in a large theater. This film’s long shots are much more beautiful than those of “Hateful Eight,” which is saying something – perhaps even surpassing those of “Macbeth”. And the attention to detail is incredible. On top of that, just as in “Gravity”, Inarritu has immersed us in impossible-to-believe angles, almost as if we are viewing this through Virtual Reality glasses. This film is not being shown in 3D, which is good, because you’d have a heart attack. Most everything about it feels real – with one or two too-much-to-ask suspensions of disbelief – and he has assembled a cast that helps carry that off quite well.

About that cast…Tom Hardy is God. Yet another performance where he disappears in to the fabric of the film’s world. Will Poulter is also exceptional – it took me a full half hour to remember that he was the kid in ‘We’re The Millers.” Of the native American performers, Arthur Red Cloud stands out as the most inspiring. Domnhall Gleeson, who has had an incredible 2015 (great in “Brooklyn”, “Ex Machina” and “Star Wars”), is totally out of his depth here…pushing when not necessary and generally seeming to be in the wrong movie. And then there’s Leo. Full disclosure…I am not a Leo fan. Never have been. I’ve liked him in a couple films and never loved him in any. And this is no different. It’s a helluva performance, don’t get me wrong. What he’s asked to do, to convey, and to accomplish are pretty near impossible…but I always see him acting in ways I never see Hardy. Even his smallest choices seem crafted to impress instead of blend. That said, if you love Leo, you’ll love this film.

Finally, the score. I don’t, as a rule, read ANYTHING about a film before I see it, if it can be helped. So the whole movie I’m thinking, how interesting that someone has decided to channel Ryuichi Sakamoto for this score. Imagine my surprise when the closing credits revealed it WAS Sakamoto. Never occurred to me, since his last Hollywood feature score was in, like, 1993. But it’s beautiful, strange, hypnotic, aggressive, and PERFECT for this film. And, along with his longtime writing partner, Alva Noto, he’s crafted my favorite score of the year.

Overall, an exceptional experience and a VERY beautiful film. I just wish the steak had a bit more flavor.

Written on 1/8/2016

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