REVIEW: The Revenant (2015)

Theatrical Release Poster – 20th Century Fox

The following is a review of The Revenant (2015).

The Revenant was my original pick for my most anticipated film of the 2015 Oscar-season. I was looking forward to the stylistic approach, DiCaprio’s performance, and to see Iñarritu and Lubezki work together again. Now that I have seen the film, I regret to inform you that while the stylistic approach is admirable, this is not a film that I will be recommending.

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. As Glass is slowing down the group, they decide to have three people, including Glass’s son, stay with Glass until he dies so that they can bury him. But when one of the three men, John Fitzgerald (played by Tom Hardy), becomes tired of waiting, he decides to smother Glass. When he is interrupted by Glass’ son, Fitzgerald kills Hugh’s son and buries Hugh alive. But this is not the clean break that Fitzgerald imagines. Because Glass survives, and he soon starts to search for Fitzgerald to get his revenge.

When I first heard what Alejandro Gonzalez Iñarritu was planning to do with The Revenant, I knew for sure that this was going to finally earn Leonardo DiCaprio his first Academy Award. This was the kind of punishing headline-grabber that AMPAS would surely have to acknowledge. While I, after having seen the film, still think that the Academy will recognize DiCaprio’s work, I must admit that DiCaprio’s performance isn’t much more than an exercise in punishment, and it will, by no means, be remembered as his finest performance.

While I am a great admirer of Leonardo DiCaprio, and even though I think of myself as a fan of his, I, ultimately, felt that his performance in The Revenant was missing something. Yes, his character absolutely does go through a lot of hardship in the film, and DiCaprio does a really good job of handling these very enduring and tough scenes. Nevertheless, neither DiCaprio nor director Iñarritu had an emotional impact on me. Frankly, I thought that Tom Hardy gave a much stronger performance in the film, and Will Poulter also left a positive impression.

However, I don’t think that this is a bad film. On a purely technical level, it is undeniably impressive, there are several strong performances, and the film looks incredible. But this is by no means the revelation that I had expected it to be, nor does it come anywhere close to my favorite DiCaprio performance. Frankly, I felt that the film’s highlights were few and far between, that it was overlong, and I’m not sure the filmmaker had a strong idea of what he wanted it to be. Also, I simply don’t think the story could contain Iñarritu’s level of ambition.

But, make no mistake, The Revenant is aesthetically pleasing and impressive. Emmanuel Lubezki absolutely is the biggest star of the film. His work blew me away, and, in a way, his work is 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. Ultimately, I was disappointed by how the story felt less important than the cinematography and Iñarritu’s stylistic trademarks. While the final product definitely is admirable, I just don’t think it is memorable or interesting.

Final Score: 6.7 out of 10