If it were not for The Force Awakens, I swear, The Revenant would be the most hyped up (satisfyingly so) movie of 2015, and it deserves to be. The Revenant is directed by Alejandro González Iñárritu, and written by Mark L. Smith and Alejandro González Iñárritu. Stars-Leonardo DiCaprio, Tom Hardy, Domhnall Gleeson, and Will Poulter. Premise-A wilderness guide’s (Hugh Glass) son is killed by a mercenary from his unit of men and he is left for dead. After partially healing from wounds he sustained from a bear attack, Glass begins his quest back to his unit’s base camp to get revenge. What (literally) gives this movie its edge, is Iñárritu’s direction, the absolutely genius performances from the cast, and the cinematography.
I know that the most popular joke to make about Leonardo DiCaprio is the fact that he hasn’t won an Oscar (if you giggled, or laughed inwardly, that just proves my point), but I am not going to make one here, because I truly think that he deserves the Oscar. Forget The Wolf of Wall Street, this is the performance of all performances. This is a raw, gritty, intense, passionate, pulls-no-punch example of truly unbeatable acting. I won’t explain why Hugh Glass doesn’t speak much in the trailers, but because he can’t speak, that means most of his acting has to come from facial expressions, body language, and grunts (kinda reminds you of Tom Hardy in Fury Road, huh?). Only the best of the best can truly compel the audience with a performance like that, and DiCaprio freaking did it! Matt Damon in The Martian was perfect because he delivered both compelling drama and amiable humor. Michael Fassbender in Steve Jobs was perfect because he added charm and likeability to an unlikeable character. Mark Ruffalo in Spotlight was perfect because he took his method acting and upped it to 11 and completely transformed into Mike Rezendes. However, none of them can compare to the pure intensity of Leo in The Revenant. IF you think that the supporting cast didn’t also give their best, then you are (fortunately) mistaken. Tom Hardy fits his selfish, compassion-lacking, and brutal character perfectly; Will Poulter (aka Gally from The Maze Runner) completely convinced me that his character was a young naive boy who struggled with his conscious, and finally, Domhnall Gleeson. Seriously, this guy is becoming quite the rising star, don’t you think? After great performances in both Ex Machina and The Force Awakens, here he is portraying the calculative, serious captain of the camp. Both Gleeson and Poulter may not have that much screen time or character development, but you can sense their presence in every scene because their acting is just that powerful. That is not the only remarkable thing about this film.
Next to Roger Deakins and Robert Richardson, I think Emmanuel Lubezki is the best movie cinematographer alive! He and Alejandro make a fantastic combination, and every shot of this movie looks magnificent! The tracking shots (a motif of Alejandro) are done so well (better than Birdman) that it makes you feel like you’re really there in the barren, frozen wasteland that these characters are in. My dad said this about the environment and landscape in this movie. “The environment in this movie is a character itself. Constantly trying to kill these men, and most of the time, that is what is on screen.” That is very true. This movie puts a lot of time into showing us the beauty, terror, and brutality of this setting and it actually helps to build suspense and keep the entertainment high! That, my friends, is what you call, masterclass filmmaking.
Speaking of master class, this film has TWO Movie Minute(s) of Mastery. Remember that phrase I created in my 12 Angry Men review? Yeah, that wasn’t just a one-off; I really am going to continue using that phrase! The only reason I haven’t brought it up in a while is because: A)-I can only use it for A- movies or higher, and B)-because few movies can create a scene like that. Leave it to three time Oscar winner Alejandro to give us one of these moments! The first scene I am referring to is the bear attack scene. There isn’t anything to spoil since the trailers already did that, so I will just explain why this scene is perfect. First, Leonardo’s acting. Not even Bear Grylls could make getting mauled by a bear look this realistic! I genuinely couldn’t tell if Hugh was going to survive or not, and that is because DiCaprio gives it his all. Secondly, the direction. This whole scene was done in one take, so when you see it in theatres (and I really hope you do) it will blow your mind! Finally, the special effects. Both CGI and practical effects were used in this scene to create a near-perfect illusion. This scene is a Movie Minute(s) of Mastery (which I will also refer to as M.M.M. from time to time) unlike any other I have come across thus far in my career. The second scene is the first real action scene of the movie (which was not put in the trailer) which I won’t spoil. What I can say about it is that it is complete chaos, well-acted, tense, and there is no other scene where I felt like I was really there than this one. It also has all of the same positives in the bear scene. It is rare for a movie to have one, let alone two M.M.M.’s, and even though we got some outstanding films this year, not every one of them has one of these moments.
In regards to what I didn’t like, I’d include the slightly overlong running time (clocking in at 2 and a half hours) for one. Even then it’s not that bad. There is one very odd thing however. You know that old-as-time writing technique of having the main character see visons of loved ones they’ve lost? It was utilized in this movie, and even though I don’t particularly like that technique (mostly because it has been used way too much), I think it was used well in this movie. The character that appears in the visions is what keeps Hugh going, and these visions even explain some backstory and subtly develop Glass’ character.
What else is there to say? The Revenant is one of the best films of 2015, and even the negatives aren’t that distracting. Outstanding performances, unmatchable cinematography, stylistic direction, and a great score and sound mixing as well. The Revenant gets Guy’s Guru Grade of an A.