Monday, January 18, 2016

Movie Review: The Revenant

Following my yearly attempt to watch as many of the Oscar nominations as I can before the event, yesterday I went with friends and family to see this years top nominee, The Revenant.

Directed by Alejandro González Iñárritu, who won best director last year for Birdman, the film initially had a lot going for me:

1) I'm a pretty big fan of Westerns

2) As a half-native child myself: I was excited to see a half-native supporting character in the film

3) Although Birdman wasn't my favourite film last year, it was incredibly shot, and I wanted to see how the director would move from largely interior to exterior shots

4) As a fan of horror films, I'm quite familiar with both Revenants in film (The Crow) and literature (Beloved, by Toni Morrison), I'm quite a fan of the character returned from the dead looking for revenge.

The film takes place in 1823 and follows a scout called Hugh Glass (DiCaprio), who, after being mauled by a bear, witnessing the murder of his son, and being left for dead, tracks down the men who did him wrong.  Although the film was incredibly shot and unbelievably immersive (the bear attack was some of the most shocking and intense filmmaking I've ever seen), I found the film wanting.

So here were my problem with The Revenant:

For me, the story was brutal and ugly, and again, as a horror junkie, I'm not unfamiliar with these types of stories, but The Revenant seemed unable to elevate itself above the narrative.

I'm sure it was a rough shoot, and was respectful of the First Nations peoples it showed, but I kept thinking throughout how much better the film would have been if it had stuck closer to the actual story; such as the fact that the historical Glass had no son, did not attempt to kill the men who left him for dead, and did some incredible things in his 320 km (200 mile) trek back from his own grave to Fort Kiowa.

In many ways, I feel like I'm part of the target demographic of the film, but in the end I couldn't find a way to connect with the story.  Really amazing visuals, but otherwise the story left me cold.

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