“Despite all of these things that I disliked about the movie, I thought it was awesome…”
On Saturday January 9th 2016, I decided to go for for a drive at 9:00am to clear my head. I enjoy going for long drives when life gets overwhelming, mainly so I can blast music and sing along at the top of my lungs. Before I set out on my adventure, I had to choose a destination. I had heard from my physiotherapist about a month ago that there was a nice theatre in London, Ontario that had seats that recline. I decided that I would then spend the day driving up to London (about an hour away) watching The Revenant in a nice comfortable theatre, and then driving home.
When I got to the theatre I was surprised to see that tickets were only $10, which is the average price for tickets. As soon as a got into the theatre I started smiling from ear to ear, and couldn’t shake that smile for about 20 minutes. The theatre is just a big room, with rows and rows of lazy boy style chairs. It was the most beautiful sight I had ever seen. Once I got to my seat and figured out how to control the reclining feature (there were two buttons built into the armrest of the chair beside your leg) I sat in silence, still smiling, for about 30 minutes until the movie started. Another bonus of these seats, is that they are kind of paired together. So every two seats are separated by a single armrest that can be folded into the chairs to make more of a couch (for the couples that like to get real close during the movie). But then every set of chairs have their own armrests on the sides. If that is hard to understand, picture every two chairs having 3 armrests. This makes for an extremely comfortable seating arrangement when you are sitting beside someone you don’t know, because you each get your own armrest. I am not joking when I say that watching The Revenant in this theatre was the most comfortable I had been watching a movie in my life.
The Revenant is directed by Birdman director Alejandro González Iñárritu, but the two movies are not similar in the slightest. I personally wasn’t a huge fan of Birdman, specifically because of the (what I thought was a) ‘gimmick’ of having the movie appear like it was one shot. But let me tell you, I am perfectly fine with Iñárritu having to perfect the craft of long takes in Birdman to have the beautifully crafted long takes in The Revenant. When watching the movie, you may not notice that the scene you are watching has been going on continuously for the past 3 minutes, but when you do you are amazed. Iñárritu uses a great mechanic, especially in the first ‘battle’ scene where he will follow a character until they die, then follow that character’s attacker until they die, then follow the attacker’s attacker until they die, and so forth. This helps convey beautifully the chaos and harshness of those fights. The cinematography was also beautifully done, again being used to show grittiness in fight scenes, as well as beauty in sweeping scenery shots. One thing this movie did wonderfully was having the camera so close to Leonardo DiCaprio’s face that his berth fogged up the lens. I could see why this would make some people upset, but I for one loved it. One problem I did have with the way the movie was done was the use of CGI. I am completely aware that they couldn’t have a real bear attack Leonardo DiCaprio, or coordinate hundreds of bison to run through a field, but to me it was painfully obvious that these things were CGI and that kind of removed me from the film. A specific example is when the director chooses to do a close up of a bird sitting on a branch. Of course this bird is CGI and it is painfully obvious that it is not real, I only wonder why the director chose to do a tight closeup on something that when you get really close to it, it looks really fake. I thought the acting in the movie was great, specifically from Tom Hardy and Leonardo DiCaprio but also from Domhnall Gleeson, who I felt stole the show in a couple of scenes. I’ve heard many people say that DiCaprio was overshadowed by Hardy in this movie, and I would have to disagree. While Tom Hardy had a character with more dialogue, and an actual character arc, Leonardo DiCaprio acted his fucking ass off and really sold the pain and the anger and the determination that his character was feeling. Another issue I had with the film was the fact that all of the dubbing done, specifically to the Natives, was completely out of sync. I’m not sure if this was done intentionally as ‘art’ or if the editor fell asleep on his keyboard, but either way I felt it was a really amateur mistake for an otherwise professional movie. The score for this movie was great as well. I didn’t really notice it until the climactic scene (specifically where Glass drops his gun when falling down the hill) but the score really put me on edge in tense fight scenes. And honestly, me not noticing the score is almost a bonus, the way I look at it. I got completely immersed in the film, and the score did a great job of complementing what I was seeing on screen and feeling. It’s kind of like a great drummer in a band. You may not notice him, but he is working his ass off to keep everyone on beat. And the climax of the film is probably one of the most intense fight scenes I have ever seen. I literally gasped in the theatre when Tom Hardy’s character gets his fingers chopped off. That is a mark of great cinema; When you get so immersed in a film that you actually feel it when something happens on screen.
But after talking about How great this movie was, I have to talk about things that I really didn’t like in the film. I already discussed the use of CGI and the poor dubbing, but another thing I want to talk about is the series of ‘dream sequences’ experienced by the main character throughout the movie. Now don’t get me wrong, I enjoy films that don’t spoon feed the audience. By that I mean, when something comes up on the screen, it’s all right if the movie leaves it up to the audience to determine what exactly that thing means. The Revenant went too far with this. It displayed essentially a series of images that were loosely tied together and offered no explanation as to what they meant. All we discovered is Glass’ wife dies, and then he kills a soldier, and then his wife floats over top of him. I would be fine if this only happened once in the film to give a little back story. The problem arises when this information that you discover was interlaced with meaningless shots spread out throughout countless dream sequences. This was absolutely infuriating to have to sit through, and I’m not sure what the director was going for with these scenes, or rather what he was smoking because it must be some powerful shit. And finally I’m going to discuss the portrayal of Natives in the film. Now before I start, I don’t care if a film portrays a certain group of people poorly, I just want them to be consistent about it. The Revenant was not. The movie starts with an unprovoked sneak attack by the Natives to steal all of the furs from the american trappers. From this you would assume that the Natives are the bad guys, which again I am fine with and actually understand this. Later on, the Natives are hangin’ out at the camp they just burned down and the leader(?) starts talking about how his daughter is missing. Here is where the message gets confusing. The Natives then meet up with an asshole French guy who wants to buy the furs they just stole. The Native leader says a completely throw-away line stating that their land was stolen from them (trying to justify why they stole the furs). It was at this point that I assumed the Natives were going to be the oppressed minority in the story. I would have been fine with this as well. The problem I have is that later on, the Natives attack an unarmed Hugh Glass (Leonardo DiCaprio) not once but twice. I have a hard time understanding why a group that you want to victimize would be attacking a man who is all alone, and running for his life. This makes the Natives seem like the bullies in this situation. Especially the second time they attack Glass. They wanted answers as to where the Leaders daughter was, so they come across a man who is sleeping amongst some trees. Instead of surrounding the man and approaching him, asking for answers, the Natives get all trigger happy and start shooting arrows at him from far away. I just don’t understand why the director would try to humanize the Natives by giving them a struggle, and then portray them as the ‘savages’ everyone of the time assumed they were. The movie then ends with Leonardo DiCaprio, having bested Tom Hardy, pushing Hardy into a river stating that ‘Revenge is up to god’ or some bullshit like that. Slightly down river, the Native leader and his band of merry men decide to grab Tom Hardy out of the river and kill him. I’m not sure exactly why they killed him, he was pretty badly wounded and probably would have died anyway, maybe they have a quota they have to meet or something. The Native Leader and his posse then walk by Leonardo DiCaprio and DiCaprio notices the Native woman, the Leader’s daughter, that he saved from being raped by the French. It is then assumed that the Natives didn’t kill DiCaprio because he rescued the Leader’s daughter. But then why the fuck did they kill Tom Hardy? He didn’t do anything wrong to them. I feel that it was out of character for them to let DiCaprio live, because the way they were portrayed in the movie they obviously loved to kill people. Despite all of these things that I disliked about the movie, I thought it was fucking awesome, and I would definitely see it again.
I would give The Revenant a B (4/5)