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Sunday, January 10, 2016

The Revenant 2015 * * * Stars

The RevenantDirector: Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu
Year: 2015
Rated R
Rating: * * * Stars    Cole's Rating: * * * * Stars
Cast: Leonardo DiCaprio, Tom Hardy, Domhnall Gleeson

Leonardo DiCaprio was good enough to win an Oscar playing Howard Hughes (from The Aviator), coked-up stock broker Jordan Belfort (from The Wolf of Wall Street), and foreign gunrunner Danny Archer (from Blood Diamond). The Academy felt otherwise. Now it seems he is the undeniable favorite to win Best Actor for 2015's The Revenant (my latest review). I call it a sympathy vote. Academy voters have been blackballing Leo for over 20 years so I guess they're calling it truce and just handing him the golden statuette. His performance in "Revenant" is a solid dose of physical acting (with few words) but I don't think it's his best work. He claws, he moans, he bleeds, he aches, and ultimately he suffers. I suppose that's good enough to take home the prize at this juncture.

Anyway, DiCaprio plays Hugh Glass, a hunter venturing from wintry South Dakota to Big Sky Montana (circa 1823). He gets mauled by a bear, his son gets unjustly murdered by his party's frontiersman, and because of his bloodied condition, he is mistakingly left for dead by his military peers. Barely ambulant, Glass goes on a long journey to find the vigilant who took his boy from him. Leo's character gets put through the wringer as he gets shot at by arrows, goes down a waterfall in icy temperatures, sleeps inside a gutless horse, and eats the raw carcasses of slain bison. Chameleon Tom Hardy (brilliantly) plays Hugh's antagonistic foe, Forrest Goodluck plays his native American son, and Domhnall Gleeson (About Time, Star Wars: The Force Awakens) plays his captain, Andrew Henry. In veracity, I took in The Revenant's mostly brisk, 2 hour and 36 minute running time and was reminded of a more foreseeable version of 2013's Snowpiercer. Granted, this is minus the futuristic elements and train ride vibeology.

Now if you haven't seen the trailer to The Revenant, I implore you that it literally gives the whole movie away. Sacrilege! And if you go into this winter release without hearing any early advance about it, you'll still find things pretty darn predictable. No matter. Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu takes a straight ahead and straightforward revenge thriller and injects it with his brilliant direction. He gives his main lead a series of feverish dreams and hallucinatory flashbacks to stew upon. He also combines the dirty, the violent, the bilious, and undercuts "Revenant" with sights/sounds of swallowed up nature. You can tell he uses his own style but hey, why not steal a little from his buddies too. There's a small bit of Terrence Malick going on here (stills of trees and animals) and residue courtesy of Alfonso Cuaron to boot (camera near the actor's faces with long takes happening all around them). And despite the film never sustaining the power of its opening battle sequence (between a tribe called Arikara and Henry's hunting party), you're still entertained while being drawn along with Emmanuel Lubezki's brilliant cinematography plus a harrowing musical score by three different composers (Bryce Dessner, Carsten Nicolai, Ryuichi Sakamoto). Rating: 3 stars.

Written by Jesse Burleson

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