REVIEW: The Revenant (2015)

Theatrical Release Poster – 20th Century Fox

The following is a spoiler-free review of The Revenant (2015).

The Revenant was my original pick for most anticipated film of the 2015 Oscar-season. I was looking forward to the stylistic approach, DiCaprio’s inclusion, and to see Iñarritu and Lubezki work together again. I’ve seen it now, and while I think it’s a good movie, I’m not that impressed with it as a whole.

The Revenant follows a group of fur trappers, who are attacked by a Native American tribe. While pursued, Hugh Glass (played by Leonardo DiCaprio) is mauled by a bear and left seriously injured. Glass slows the group down, and they decide to let three people, including Glass’s son, stay with Glass until he dies and bury him. But one of the three men, John Fitzgerald (played by Tom Hardy), grows tired of waiting and attempts to smother Glass, only to be interrupted by Glass’s son. Fitzgerald kills the son, and buries Glass alive. But Glass survives, and he then searches for Fitzgerald to get his revenge.

When I first heard what Alejandro Gonzalez Iñarritu’s The Revenant was about I was absolutely certain: Leonardo DiCaprio was finally getting his first Academy Award win. Now I’ve seen it, and while I still think the Academy will finally recognize his work, his performance wasn’t as strong as I had hoped it would be.

I love Leonardo DiCaprio, I’m a huge fan of his, but I felt that his performance was missing something. He does a really good job of handling these very enduring and tough scenes, but he failed to really have an impact on me. In my opinion his performance was more physically shocking than breathtakingly strong.

If Leonardo DiCaprio wins the Academy Award for this film, you could make the same argument that people made when Scorsese finally won for The Departed. They’ve recognized his career more than his performance in this particular film. Personally, I thought that Tom Hardy gave a much stronger performance in the film, and I was also impressed with Will Poulter, whom I didn’t expect anything from.

The one thing, though, that I don’t want any reader to take from this review is that I think it is a bad film. The Revenant is a good film, with good performances, and beautiful cinematography. But it is not the revelation that I had expected, nor does it come anywhere close to my favorite DiCaprio performance. It is a good film, but not much more than that, in my opinion.

I felt that the film’s highlights were few and far between, that it was way too long, and that it didn’t have any idea of what it was. Somehow it tries to be both a gritty and realistic revenge-thriller, while trying to be this aesthetically pleasing cinematic masterpiece, and I don’t think the story could contain that level of ambition.

But it is very beautiful, and Emmanuel Lubezki is the biggest star of the film. I definitely was blown away by the stunning cinematography, and that was what saved the film for me. I truly admire the film’s ambition, even if I felt it ended up feeling like it chose style over substance.

Final Score: 7.0 out of 10 – While it is a very beautiful film, perhaps the prettiest of them all in 2015, the savage nature of the film did not strike a chord with me, and I was disappointed by how the story felt less important than the cinematography and Iñarritu’s stylistic trademarks.