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Movie Review: The Revenant

January 22, 2016

 

Leonardo DiCaprio stars as frontiersman Hugh Glass in the Revenant–Photo courtesy of New Agency Productions

Leonardo DiCaprio stars as frontiersman Hugh Glass in the Revenant–Photo courtesy of New Agency Productions

 

JOHN SADLER

Features Editor| jts040@ latech.edu 

 

Occasionally I’ll encounter a movie, like “Shame or “The Master,” that mentally exhausts me.

 

Mentally, I was disturbed when I left “The Revenant.” But physically, I felt like I had been mauled by a bear and then forced to hike through countless miles of subarctic wilderness.

 

The film follows frontiersman Hugh Glass’s quest for revenge after he is left for dead after a vicious bear attack.

 

Buried in a shallow grave, he drags his broken body more than 200 miles of wilderness to find the man responsible.

 

It opens with an extended fight sequence, which plays out in the style of a vicious frontier brawl, with scalping and plenty of arrows to faces.

 

While the scene was choreographed, of course, it doesn’t show, instead playing up the sometimes clumsy but always brutal ways the characters would actually fight to the death.

 

It’s a profoundly disturbing scene and one that should be, and will be, talked about in film classes as an example of how to shoot a fight.

 

The film is also single-handedly the most well-shot film I have ever seen.

 

Cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki’s decision to shoot the film in only natural light creates an environment of subdued blues, dull greys and brilliant flashes of orange that makes half of the film look more like a painting than a film.

 

The actors all do a phenomenal job, as well, especially Tom Hardy as Fitzgerald. Hardy’s imposing, half-scalped frontiersman is an iconic role, and in the end a far more interesting one that Dicaprio’s High Glass.

 

Since we’ve finally reached the elephant in the room, let’s go all in: Does Leo deserve the Oscar?

 

I’m not sure.

 

While his role was extremely physically demanding (he ate raw bison liver) and it is evident he immersed himself in the project, in the end Glass is a rather one-dimensional character, and his limited dialogue and single set goal didn’t give Leo a lot with which to work.

 

This one-dimensionality is one of my major complaints with the movie. It ultimately boils down to a revenge flick, a subzero “Death Wish” with the addition of an angry mama bear.

 

Of course, the film is better than “Death Wish,” but the characters’ (besides Hardy’s Fitzgerald) lack of complexity stops the film from being flawless.

 

This lack of complexity extends to the Native American characters, who are played as shamanistic and vaguely mystical.

 

It’s a boring characterization, one that has been seen almost as much as the standard “savage Indian” trope.

 

Barring this, however, the film is one of the most intense and exciting experiences I have had at the movies in a while.

 

Understand what you’re getting into here, however: two and a half hours of frozen hell. You might want to bring a blanket, or, perhaps, a big bear hide. Glass would approve.

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