The Revenant is quite a simple historic story of a man left for dead in the American wilderness who struggles back to health and civilisation to wreak revenge on the man who wronged him. The film is so much more than that though.
I didn’t realise at the time of watching that the director was Alejandro González Iñárritu who directed Birdman, although what wowed me about the first part of The Revenant should have alerted me to the fact. What made me go so far as to pause the film and remark to Siggy that my mind was getting properly bedazzled was the camerawork and editing. The film seems to seamlessly jump from close-up handheld shots to impossible floating camera shots of people riding pell-mell on horseback as if the camera is inside some kind of digital landscape. If I was prone to hyperbole I would go so far as to say that some shots were mind-blowing.
Another pause let me check that grunt-a-thon participant Leonardo DiCaprio had won his Oscar for this film and that his mumbling enemy was in fact an almost unrecognisable Tom Hardy in a Bane vocal reprisal sans mask. While I was fact checking I also searched to see if the film was originally released in 3D – it seemed an odd choice for such a film, but there were so many close-ups of faces and along the length of gun barrel shots that I thought it might be. The truth of the matter is that it was filmed on the same sort of wide film stock as Tarantino’s Hateful Eight which gives amazing levels of detail which can give the viewer the impression that he’s watching a 3D film conversion to 2D.
Some have criticised the pace of the film. But I had a trusty pace monitor in the form of Siggy sitting by my side on the couch and if the speed of the grunt-a-thon had dropped below acceptable levels she would have complained. This film is nowhere near as slow as The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, or indeed the very tedious The Assassin the winner of a palme d’or for best director at the 2015 Cannes film festival. Siggy never remarked that she was bored.
I watched The Assassin yesterday and while I found it visually very appealing, despite its strange square aspect ratio (like watching old TV shows on Dave), it was boring as fuck. Really if you are ever having trouble sleeping give it a watch.
The computer graphics in The Revenant are mostly excellent and, apart from the ferocious bear, quite subtle. The effects only appeared to let the film down once and that was during the bison herd scenes which to my eye looked pretty crummy. However, for all I know that was real footage. The slow lingering shots of the sky through the trees and the almost panoramic views of the Canadian wilderness were breathtakingly beautiful.
The filming process, given the extremes of the weather, must have been an absolute nightmare and given what Leonardo DiCaprio went through I think he thoroughly deserves his Academy award. Alejandro González Iñárritu also deserves his best director award and I’m surprised Spotlight won best film. I watched Spotlight about a week ago but wasn’t particularly blown away by it – there’s a few good performances but the film as a whole was hardly a masterpiece.
(just watched this again and argggh!!! the bear is terrifying…)