Brief thoughts on the film
So I finally got about to watching this. I have been holding it off for months, because I really didn’t feel interested in this film at all. To me, it sounded like a major vanity project for all involved, especially during its not-very-subtle Oscar campaign. While they went on and on about how much the cast and crew had to endure and suffer during shooting, the cynical side of me wasn’t ready to be bought over by this. Frankly, like what many others say, I am always more interested in the final result than the preparation process. It might sound a bit unsympathetic, and while I am not denying the efforts of these people, it isn’t what I care about the most when I watch a movie.
On a positive note, I would say that the suffering was not in vain – Iñárritu created a gorgeously shot film, making the cinematography win one of the most deserved so far. He also managed to utilise the harshness of their shooting conditions to bring out the raw, brutal tension needed in this story. A major part of The Revenant is about Man vs Wild, and in this aspect, the film succeeds greatly. It is raw, gritty, suspenseful and realistic.
However, there was something that held me back from fully embracing this film. I feel that The Revenant is well-done, but it seems to lack a particular…oomph that would have made it the powerful, gut-wrenching, cinematic masterpieces it clearly strives to be. It was like watching a gorgeous painting, but unfortunately not having a lot of emotional connection to it. More on that later anyway.
The technical aspects are still the saving grace of this film, and at the end of the day, I will concede that the shit everyone went through paid off. But that’s essentially what I feel about it in a nutshell. Iñárritu’s directing win is largely deserved, although I am equally in favour towards Tom McCarthy and George Miller. 4/5.
I just don’t get the overwhelming love people have for Leo DiCaprio. From the almost embarrassing internet memes, the comparisons to Bob De Niro made by some (Oh REALLY?), I have to confess that I did try to feel the amount of love people have for him…but I just can’t hop onto that bandwagon. I am not saying he is overrated, I am just perfectly content with my own impression of him: a good actor, who has been consistently turning in good to great work, rightfully earning those nominations. I just cannot wrap my head around that “HE IS SO OVERDUE” thing that has been plaguing the internet (Glenn Close is more worthy of that, I feel). The only time where I thought he truly deserved the Oscar was for The Wolf of Wall Street – he was amazing in that, but that’s also in the face of equally deserving competition from Matthew McConaughey and Chiwetel Ejiofor.
One thing that Leo really nails here is the perseverance and fighting spirit of Hugh Glass. His portrayal of physical agony and pain is fantastic, and I wouldn’t even deny that he really made me cringe sometimes. He always remains truly committed with this aspect of the character, selling Glass’ determination to survive instead of going the Anne Hathaway “Look at me suffer for ART!” route. Hugh Glass is a fighter, and Leo does not fail in his portrayal of that. Even in that final fight scene with Hardy, which made me cringe harder than all of the SAW movies put together, I really admired how he perfected Glass’ desire for revenge.
Unfortunately, that’s pretty much all I can really rave about his performance. I liked that small tender moment where he briefly bonded with the Pawnee refugee Hikuc, and how they connected with their losses. But what was really lacking to me, which is also the main thing that’s holding me back from calling The Revenant a masterpiece, was the emotional weight needed in this performance. I will just state the obvious: I do not buy the father-son relationship between Glass and Hawk. To me, that is the greatest misstep of this performance. I am supposed to buy that Glass is soooo devastated by Hawk’s death that it set him on this bloody path of revenge, yet I just didn’t buy that Glass was extremely protective of Hawk, like when he tells him to remain “invisible”. Even Hawk’s death didn’t leave much of an impression – I mean, you see Leo screaming in devastation and all, but that’s pretty much it for me. There was this noticeable lack of chemistry between the two actors.
In fact, I would even go a step further and say that I don’t buy him as a father. I’m sorry, but when I think of Leo Dicaprio, I always picture him partying on a yacht full of VS models with his “wolf pack”, free of any familial responsibilities and commitment – I guess that’s why WoWS worked incredibly for me. Of course, that didn’t influence my opinion of his work here, but frankly, I wouldn’t even have noticed a difference if you removed the father-son relationship and called them colleagues/hunting buddies instead. I mean, if Brie Larson, who wasn’t a mother when shooting Room, could sell herself as a highly protective mother, then why can’t Leo?
When this aspect is lacking, it really takes away what could have been an amazing performance and reduces it to merely a “good” one. Sure, he effectively portrays his determination and anger, but it would have been absolutely amazing to me if I could actually, you know, feel the grief and emotional pain from losing his wife and son, with all the “he killed ma booooy” and voice-overs. I wasn’t sure what went wrong here – maybe it is all so subtle that I missed it in the first viewing, but even the “deep” glances and “mysterious” expressions didn’t provoke me as much as I wanted, like the ending scene. I wouldn’t say I am very disappointed since this is still a solid turn from a solid performer, but it is still a missed opportunity to me. 3.5/5.
Tom Hardy *mild spoiler ahead*
Tom Hardy is the man. Tom hardy is a badass. Tom Hardy is the cool motherfucker. Only Tom Hardy can show up at his movie event gangsta-style in shirt and jeans, and still own it, making Leo look overdressed even. Tom Hardy was awesome in Inception. Tom Hardy was freaking cool in Mad Max: Fury Road. Tom Hardy in Legend was…haven’t watched that. Oh, but Tom Hardy loves dogs, which just increases his cool factor.
Embarrassingly, I admit I sound like a little boy going crazy over Iron Man, but that’s pretty much how I feel about Tom Hardy these days. He’s da man.
Even so, if I am being objective about this, Tom Hardy was the mvp for The Revenant for me. He gives a very mannered and loud performance in contrast to Leo, and yet it works brilliantly for me. Like what I said about Jennifer Jason Leigh, he isn’t the most complex supporting character around but he has a one-of-a-hell presence and is just freaking entertaining. John Fitzgerald is one evil bastard, and Hardy nails this (“Maybe you should have raised a man instead of a girlie little bitch” – Ouch!). He switches from sympathetic to chilling in just a blink of an eye – one moment, you can be talking to him like some regular friend and the next moment he can be aiming his rifle at you and threatening to blow your head off. That whole “God is a squirrel” speech was fantastic – he delivers it in such a matter-of-a-fact way, and yet you could really understand where Fitzgerald is coming from – he simply has no more fucks to give.
Hardy actually makes Fitzgerald a very sympathetic character. There are even times where I thought he had a point, even though everybody else was quick to dismiss him. The best part was, I actually felt sorry for him when he died. He could have turned Fitzgerald into a caricature villain, and yet he transforms him into a believable, flawed and at times frightening person instead. As a whole, I really, really enjoyed Hardy’s performance here. He is also entertaining as hell to watch, never having a single dull moment. And not to mention that physical transformation! Honestly, I wouldn’t have recognised that it was Hardy in my first viewing. 5/5