The Revenant (Review)

Directed by Alejandro González Iñárritu, US, 2015

The first of our Oscar nominee reviews this month is the early favorite, Iñárritu’s “The Revenant.”  And yes, Leonardo DiCaprio deserves an Oscar for his performance based on degree of difficulty alone.  But let’s get away from this year’s troubling award season to consider the Revenant as a film.

The Revenant is no masterpiece, but it comes awfully close.  Thanks to Emmanuel Lubezki’s cinematography, we are treated to breathtaking visuals of the American West.  DiCaprio delivers a compelling, physically demanding performance.  I can’t recall a single role he’s had which has called for such a physical and emotional transformation.

DiCaprio’s Hugh Glass, based upon the legendary mountain man of the same name, has a rough time.  By rough time, I mean he’s ripped apart by a bear, buried alive, stabbed, strangled, starved, frozen, and wet.  His goal is simple – survive so that he can have his revenge against the man who betrayed him and murdered his son, Fitzgerald (Tom Hardy).

The Revenant is gripping, entertaining, intense, and gruesome.  At the same time, it can’t quite figure out what it’s about.  Is it about the callousness of vengeance?  Survival in the wilderness?  The injustices enacted upon Native Americans?  It touches upon all of these themes, but doesn’t stay long enough with any of them to get beneath the surface.

The Revenant is top notch entertainment, propelled by excellent acting, cinematography, and direction.  However, it is also a thematic jack of all trades/master of none.  Also, there’s a bear attack, in case you haven’t heard.

You might like the Revenant if: You enjoy thrillers and you want to see what all the fuss is about.

You might not like the Revenant if: You expect your Oscar favorites to have thematic focus, or you don’t particularly want to see a man ripped apart by a bear.

(c) 2016 D.G. McCabe

By D.G. McCabe

I write fantasy/science fiction, plays, and commentary on popular culture.