The Revenant

12 Oscar nominations – but just how good is it?

Leading the pack with 12 nominations from the 88th Academy Awards  is ‘The Revenant’. Often that information is not necessarily an indicator on how much the general public will like it, but how much a small committee (who may not have actually watched all the films) liked it or think it deserves mention. Happily, in this case, ‘The Revenant’ is worthy of most of the acclaim it is receiving. The film is starkly beautiful yet bitterly bleak. It’s uncompromising and devastating, leaving the audience in a state of emotional destruction. However, it’s not perfect. It’s overlong, losing much of the audience about two thirds in, more of an endurance test than entertainment and certain aspects are not as good as the film (or the awards committee) seem to think it is. To break this down further, whilst remaining spoiler free, I will divide this review into 5 sections- each guided by one of the nomination categories.

Performance by an actor in a leading role: Leonardo DiCaprio in “The Revenant”

Poor Leo. It is a truth universally acknowledged,  then laughed at, that DiCaprio is the bridesmaid of the wedding ceremony that is the Oscar’s. Always the bridesmaid, nominated six times, yet never the bride. It’s fair to say, after watching ‘The Revenant’, that he really deserves this one. There’s not only what he clearly must have gone through behind the scenes, the below freezing weather conditions, and what was required from him, a man on the edge of death crawling back in the name of vengeance, but what he manages to achieve with the performance that surely must put his name inside that envelope.  His rage at what has been done to him and his family pours out through every pore, exposing it with every look, gesture and expression. He truly makes everything that happens to him, not matter how seemingly unbelievable it is, seem real and dragging us along with him for the bitter journey.

Performance by an actor in a supporting role: Tom Hardy in “The Revenant”

Now this is a bit of a strange one. Having known that he had been nominated I spent all of Hardy’s screen time analyzing his performance – looking for that moment or reason  that explained it. But neither moment nor reason came. He’s good, yes, but it’s Hardy in weird, strange and rambling mode. The performance is pretty one-dimensional and rather one-note, supplying little reason for the audience to care for what happens to him. Also at times his speech enters into Bane-levels of incomprehensibility. Compared to the other four candidates in this category (Christian Bale in “The Big Short”, Mark Ruffalo in “Spotlight”, Mark Rylance in “Bridge of Spies”, Sylvester Stallone in “Creed”) Hardy seems almost shoe-horned in. If the academy really wanted to acknowledge supporting performances in “The Revenant” it would be far better acknowledging either Domhnall Gleeson or Will Poulter, both of whom provide performances far deeper than Hardy’s.

Achievement in cinematography: “The Revenant,” Emmanuel Lubezki

Yes. What makes this film so successful, every event so brutal, is that all occurs in a manner that is oxymoronic. The camera dances across the landscape, panning, tracking and weaving across the wondrous yet terrifying unknown that is capable of much beauty and brutality. You’re lulled into a false sense, admiring the scenery, then you’re shocked back to realising just how dangerous this world is. Without this, the film would be far less memorable or emotive.

Achievement in costume design:  “The Revenant,” Jacqueline West

Whilst costume is great in this film, this award needs to go to “Carol,” Sandy Powell, for which the costume really captured the era and the mood.Through costume alone it made every character, from speaking roles to walk-ons,  feel real with an enriched back not matter how seemingly unnecessary they were . With “The Revenant”it was the cinematography over costume that created the overarching tone.

Achievement in directing: “The Revenant,” Alejandro G. Iñárritu

To bring such emotion out of a cast, as with this film, a director must be extraordinary. The power Iñárritu’s cast generate tells just how magnificent he is. My only criticism would be that the implied power and complexity of the final act is not as powerful or complex as he may have intended.

 All in all, “The Revenant” is more than worth watching. It’s an experience that needs to be experienced on the big screen. However, it’s not light-hearted entertainment or those who are easily shaken.  An impassive musing on man’s plight which does not shy away from harsh realities.

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