Last year was Alejandro Iñárritu’s year, with the huge success of Birdman. He’s sought to follow that up this year with The Revenant, a revenge western starring Leonardo DiCaprio, that has garnered a lot of award attention. I think there are a lot of good things about the film, but I also had a lot of problems with it.
Iñárritu is certainly one of the best directors around at the moment. Both Birdman and the Revenant have his stamp all over them as films. The opening sequence where Native Americans attack the fur traders is the highlight of the film for me, especially in terms of action. The scene where DiCaprio’s character is attacked by a bear is also incredible, and is probably the single best bit of special effects this year. In both of these moments you can really see Iñárritu’s directing. He is also helped by the stunning cinematography work in the film, which really made the Revenant such a visual treat.
DiCaprio’s central performance as Hugh Glass, the trader who is attacked by the bear and then left for dead, is also gathering a lot of attention as the role that might finally break his Oscar duck. It’s certainly one of his biggest acting performances, think the Wolf of Wall Street Quaaludes scene but for 2 and a bit hours, but I don’t think it’s anywhere near his best. That’s not to say he isn’t good however, and deserves his almost inevitable win this year.
Tom Hardy, as Fitzgerald, the man who leaves Glass for dead, and then is hunted down, doesn’t quite do it for me. He gave a far better performance in Legend as both of the Kray twins, and did a sterling job as the titular Max in the new Mad Max film. So his role here just doesn’t live up to those two, and his accent is near unintelligible.
The main problem for the film is that it is far too long, and horribly paced. There are long extended periods of the film where almost nothing happens, and feel more like an opportunity for Leo to show his acting chops, than necessary parts of the film. With some better editing and pacing the Revenant could have been one of my favourite films of the year. As it is I found myself bored for long parts of it between the amazing opening and bear attack through to the tense and thrilling final confrontation.
Overall there are a lot of great things to admire about the Revenant, and I can understand why a lot of people love the film. However, for me it dragged far too much in the middle for me to really enjoy it.