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fbook icon 60Film Review: ‘The Revenant’

The Revenant 2015 film poster.jpg 

It’s ten days since I saw ‘The Revenant’ and I still haven’t decided whether it’s a mesmerising cinematic masterpiece about endurance, revenge and retribution ... or a gratuitous celebration of violence for its own sake.

Either way, this film is beautifully photographed by cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki, who gives us swampy forests and sweeping white landscapes, frequently stained with blood. Director Alejandro Iñárritu (of ‘Birdman’ fame) gets in close at every opportunity, which bring us, as viewers, right into the story.

One thing I can guarantee about ‘The Revenant’ is that you won’t be bored. Instead, you will be spellbound or sickened (or both) by the graphically depicted violence. The camera lingers over every gory detail – whether it’s a grizzly bear attacking our never-say-die hero, Leonardo Dicaprio, or a horse being disembowelled. (Warning to horse lovers: do not go to see this film.)

In his role as 19th century fur trapper Hugh Glass, Dicaprio has been nominated for just about every Best Actor Award on offer and has already won the Golden Globe. I have no doubt he will take out the Oscar too. Dicaprio delivers a bravura performance, aided by some grotesquely realistic make-up. In that respect, he reminds me of John Hurt in David Lynch’s ‘The Elephant Man’.

There can’t be a hero without an adversary, and Inarritu and cowriter, Mark L. Smith have created a stereotypical villain with nary a redeeming feature. Somehow the mercurial Tom Hardy fleshes out this character to the point that he almost steals the picture, though I’m not sure about the down-home accent which often morphs into Brandoesque mumbling.

Domhnall Gleeson (from ‘About Time’) is excellent as the noble captain who actually cares about his men’s welfare, while Forrest Goodluck is perfect as Glass’s son, Hawk.

When I first heard about ‘The Revenant’ I assumed it would be in the spirit of the wonderful ‘Jeremiah Johnson’ (directed by Sydney Pollack and starring Robert Redford). While both stories are inspired by true events and involve a frontiersman seeking revenge for the murder of his loved ones, ‘Jeremiah Johnson’ is much more nuanced, especially in its depiction of Native Americans.

P.S. After I finished this review, I read what other people have to say about ‘The Revenant’. Most of them call it a masterpiece; I still have my doubts.


Deborah O’Brien

25 January, 2016