Alejandro G. Innaritu is a director who makes divisive films with an unquestionable visual flair. Since he made his debut with Amores Perros, Innaritu has made films that skew towards the cinephiles and movie snobs.
If you haven’t heard of Innaritu (or you didn’t see last year’s Birdman), that is mainly why. He’s an artistic director who literally does what he wants, when he wants and finishes the film when he feels its finished.
He’s a modern Kubrick in a way.
This is key to realizing if you are going to get anything out of The Revenant, a movie now famous for giving Leonardo DiCaprio his first Best Actor Oscar.
The Revenant is 2 hours and nearly 40 minutes of slow moving, moody drama that simpler movies, like The Grey, would have finished in half the time.
In its core, The Revenant is a revenge tale that doesn’t get to that plot point until halfway through the film. Set in the 1820’s, Scout Hugh Glass (DiCaprio) is mauled by a bear and is then left for dead by one of his compatriots (Hardy), who also kills his son in the process. The rest of this film is his fight for revenge against said person.
Again, a fairly simple plot. This could be an entertaining film, providing some good action set pieces and minimal character development.
Yet, The Revenant subverts that in a few key ways.
The film is contemplative and is more of a slow burn. The Revenant is concentrating more on character development and mood, so we get tons of set up before we get to the main crux of the film. We learn a few key things about Hugh, his son and his relationship with his platoon.
The film is also quite beautiful, thanks to its incredible cinematography by Emmanuel Lubeski and great direction by Innaratu. Implied perspective tricks, unrelenting use of kinetic camera work and the picture of brutal violence creates a breathtaking, if not incredibly harrowing, canvas of deep blues, saturated sunsets and stark, beautiful whites.
Lastly, the film, for all of its beauty and its contemplation is a rather shallow message movie. It’s shallow in the sense that it wears everything out on its sleeve rather than having you search for meaning.
The characters are one-dimensional, but not to a point of it being distracting. The messages are obvious, but can be ignored and not bothered with.
It’s the blahsie sense of depth that hurts the impact of the film. To have someone sit through a nearly three hour film with its depth be its visuals and not so deep characterization, it makes the film rather boring to watch.
And, to be honest, a good third of this film is boring to watch. With no tangibility in character and message, the visuals alone weren’t enough to keep the movie engaging.
Neither did the performances. Mind you, they were good performances, but they aren’t nearly the best from any of the actors involved. The best one in the movie is Dohmnall Gleason who plays the captain of the platoon throughout the film. It’s not a great performances, but his was definitely the showiest and most enjoyable.
Hardy also had a good performance as the callous and obviously villainous counterpart. DiCaprio, however, was good but wasn’t given much to do except crawl, drown, dodge bullets and act like he’s in pain.
For what it is, it’s a good performance, but it wasn’t really an enticing or amazing one.
The Revenant is much more Babel than Birdman: it’s a beautiful movie that is more concerned with message than feel. It’s a shame because it’s feel and ambience is its greatest strength, where as its lack of depth hinders the overall movie.
It’s not a bad movie, but those who watch Innaritu and can’t get into his films, you aren’t going to get a different response.
The Wiz Says #70