For The Revenant, director Alejandro G. Inarritu has once again coupled with cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki, delivering a film so spectacular and awe-inspiring it ultimately forgets it is, above all, a film and ends up being not as satisfying as there is a severe lack for one thing — storytelling.
Taking place in 1823, The Revenant is based on Michael Punke’s book inspired by the real events in the life of Hugh Glass. He’s part of the Rocky Mountain Fur Company and on one trek, he is left for dead as his meet with a grizzly has left him with mortal wounds caused by the bear’s mauling (the scene is gut-wrenching and brutal).
Leonardo DiCaprio’s portrayal of Glass is phenomenal. Not having seen all of the Oscar contenders, I can’t really say if he has the highest chances of winning, but it is one of his best performances to date. Moreover, he makes you relate to his character, creating a protagonist you genuinely care about and can root for.
On the other hand, Tom Hardy’s Fitzgerald is the complete opposite of Grant in what he represents. If Hugh is strong, courageous and big-hearted, Fitzgerald is a weak coward and with no heart. Now, it might be poor character development but you never get to really understand why he does and acts the way he does. You do have some implications but nothing explicit. Some of his actions are logical, however, that’s a rare occurrence and most of his decisions make zero sense and have no real motivation behind them that we know of. Still, Hardy makes do with what he’s given even if he still mumbles a bit.
One character specifically is mostly paper-thin. He is side-tracked from the action, only appearing when it’s convenient and are so stereotypical you can guess what each of them is going to say. We have the young, ignorant Jim who, by the end of the lengthy film, turns out to be useless to the story as he is underdeveloped and not utilised. He’s used as a filler; if you take him out of The Revenant, you won’t have removed anything integral from the plot.
For me, the main character of the film is the cinematography. Shot by Lubezki, it is a truly memorable film with scenes so delightful you can freeze almost each frame and get a gorgeous photograph on your wall. The long takes, the use of only natural light, the setting and framing — they are all topnotch. Nevertheless, one thing I could make do without are the low-angle shots. They are a bit odd and not as impactful as the pans and dutch angles.
Another important thing to note is the sound mixing — it’s exceptional. The way this film’s sound is mixed is just a thing my ears admire. Even in the opening credits, with the water running in the stream, you notice how much thought has been put into place with the sound. I am not particularly sure if anything else has grabbed my attention this year when it comes to sound editing.
The Revenant has it’s great qualities. But when it comes to the actual story, there is not enough of it to fill the runtime of two hours and thirty-six minutes. It feels overly long with many filler, although pretty, scenes as it protracts the main focus of the film, the revenge, for so long that when you get to the final, actual face-off, it is anticlimactic and you are left chapfallen and perplexed by the end product. Had Inarritu omitted those scenes, and thus made the film more condensed, the third act would be more stirring and riveting.