The Revenant Screen 25 articles

The Revenant


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  • The main difference between The Revenant and, say, Apocalypse Now or Fitzcarraldo is that there’s no real madness in it. That’s surely to Iñárritu’s credit in a practical sense: nobody’s going to seriously criticize a director for not ruining careers or nearly getting people killed. But the overall impression is of a film that plays by the rules even as its director made an on-set fetish of flouting them.

  • Lubezki makes the camera twirl and gyrate, but for Malick the movement often *is* the action and runs the risk of obscuring the drama in favor of moods, tones, and ideas. By contrast, Inarritu’s camera movements follow the action and subordinate it to a theatrical mode of performance (as in “Birdman”)… Far from pursuing the boundary-less quasi-metaphysical connections of Malick’s fluid images, Inarritu uses Lubezki’s balletic camera work as a pictorial ornament to his bland theatrical stagings.

  • Following the atypically genre-derived but typically showboating Birdman, Alejandro González Iñárritu returns to something like old habits with The Revenant, a misery-fest that plants its narrative flags as carelessly as a Roland Emmerich blockbuster, guaranteeing us a viewing experience almost as arduous as the trials depicted on screen, before reaching a conclusion that's sealed the moment audiences first meet the key players.

  • What emerges most prominently in The Revenant is not any particular vision of the world but rather a compulsive urge to impress. Stepping away from the one-take pomp of Birdman, Iñárritu still can’t resist making a display of his cojones a proximate justification for the emotions and ideas embedded in his stories.

  • Last year's Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) suggested Iñárritu might have a smidgen of levity heretofore obscured by the morose, portentous stylings of such films as 21 Grams (2003) and Biutiful (2010). Not so here: The glum and gloom has been cranked up to a Spinal Tap-ian 11 in The Revenant, and not even some expectedly pretty pictures by cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki makes the 156-minutes-long trudge worth it.

  • This grueling depiction of cruelty and revenge among pioneer hunters and trappers and Native Americans in the early 19th century is stunningly unimaginative and literal. Iñárritu applies an aesthetic sheen to every aspect of this production and elicits ferocious commitments from his cast, including his star, Leonardo DiCaprio. Still, his determination to catapult audiences into a feral world lacks a visionary pull.

  • A fateful staring contest permanently bonds two men in the untamed wilderness who will stop at nothing to reunite. One of the strange things about this not-nearly-strange-enough movie is that such an earthy premise is treated like a reverie. Witness our festering meatsack of a hero pretending to shoot caribou with his stick. Leo Quaaludes his way through the snow, Tom plays with a Southern accent by way of Maryland, Emmanuel's wide-eyed with wonder about every damn thing.

  • There’s a lot of effort expended here to attain an unprecedented level of verisimilitude, yet most of it is wasted, since the essential confusion of dirt, blood and brutality for authenticity poisons everything that follows. All this in service of a tired “back to the land,” narrative that’s really no more developed than the one that plays out in more restrained, reverent form in Dances with Wolves.

  • If The Hateful Eight feels like an unredeemably shaggy at nearly three hours, The Revenant at least seems built up with a conscientious ambition, albeit also to the point of overstuffing. The long-take stunts of Inarritu’s award-winner Birdman matched the theatricality of the Broadway setting (and a protagonist in breakdown), but the journey of DiCaprio’s left-for-dead trapper feels like an unnecessary hard-sell of pioneer country.

  • Sight & Sound: Nick Pinkerton
    January 04, 2016 | February 2016 Issue (pp. 84-85)

    While Iñárritu and Lubezki wow in scenes that anyone working with similar money and in similar circumstances could hardly fail to make impressive, the handling of Glass's family history is a haze of jerky-tough platitudes and cribbed Malick-isms, arbitrarily flitted through in order to give Glass a motive for vengeance and to establish that, through his relations with the Native Americans, he is somewhat less unprincipled trash than the other Europeans in the wilderness.

  • For better and for worse, there is relatively little artifice in The Revenant. DiCaprio's character lacks much detail, so we invest him with what we know of Leo himself; it's a real movie-star performance. That is both The Revenant's accomplishment and its curse.

  • Swinging hard for the visionary and missing, The Revenant combines Andrei Rublev with Apocalypse Now and Saving Private Ryan, unfurling winter panoramas in natural light and adding CGI animals... [It's] Klondike Kat crossed with a Matthew Barney film, dominated by Tom Hardy’s distracting-entertaining Appalachian accent. One thing is certain: Iñárittu has finally solved the problem of how to film a realistic bear fight. The next cinematic problem he should tackle is screenwriting.

  • Iñárritu may have fashioned The Revenant as the ultimate endurance test, but as Glass, DiCaprio simply endures. He gives the movie a beating heart, offering it up, figuratively speaking, alive and bloody on a platter. It—he—is the most visceral effect in the movie, revenge served warm. Bon appetit.

  • Working again with a team that includes the director of photography Emmanuel Lubezki and a handful of special-effects companies, Mr. Iñárritu creates a lush, immersive world that suggests what early-19th-century North America might have looked like once upon an antediluvian time... But Mr. Iñárritu blows it when he moves from the material to the mystical and tries to elevate an ugly story into a spiritual one, with repeated images of a spiral and even a flash of homespun magical realism.

  • So long as The Revenant sticks to [Glass'] extreme efforts, which at one point include taking refuge from a storm inside a dead horse’s belly, it’s gripping entertainment. The revenge story itself, on the other hand, never quite catches fire.

  • What’s best in this two-and-a-half hour film that feels much longer is Emmanuel Lubezki’s gorgeously unhurried cinematography, accompanied by Ryuichi Sakamoto’s ghostly score, and supplemented with atmospheric compositions by John Luther Adams, Messiaen, and others; as in Iñárritu’s previous films, including Birdman and Babel, the soundtrack, with its repeated, unresolved chords, is crucial to the action, directing our emotional responses to some mystical realm.

  • The world portrayed in The Revenant is gigantic: vast landscapes, mile-high trees, and infinite horizons. But the auteur of that vision isn't Iñárritu—it's cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki… As Lubezki has pointed out, digital still lacks film's dynamic range—yet the image resolution in The Revenant is phenomenal, even when the camera is moving quickly or acrobatically.

  • A bird flutters out as if from within a dead body - the soul! - but suffering doesn't lead to transcendence here (God, to quote Tom Hardy, is a squirrel), Nature being more of an obstacle course and all-you-can-eat buffet of imposing landscapes; psychology suffers, humour ditto, structure hounds will wonder why we needed the (expensive) shots of Gleeson and Co. making their way through snowy mountains when in fact they reach the fort without incident.

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    Sight & Sound: Edward Lawrenson
    November 27, 2015 | January 2016 Issue (pp. 22-23)

    An astonishingly gripping, big-canvas tale of survival and revenge set in the wilds of the US Midwest in the 1820s... Reuniting Iñárritu with Birdman (2014) DP Emmanuel Lubezki, the film extends the bravura, fluid, seemingly continuous camerawork of that movie, only in sub-zero wilderness conditions.

  • Iñarritu’s much-dreaded-by-me return to heavyosity turned out to be not so overbearing in its heavyosity as I’d dreaded, so I was kind of able to enjoy this as a drawn-out brutalist Western with spiritual touches.

  • One of the most powerful, viscerally exciting, terrifying and beautiful films I've seen in a long time, it feels, at times, like *watching* Hemingway or Faulkner or Conrad... There's so much mystery and wonder here. As gloriously shot by that genius Emmanuel Lubezki, nature is its own character full of glory and full of hell -- and you can't solve nature.

  • The first time I saw The Revenant, I felt it was the movie of the year, the most beautiful and eloquent, as vital as the desperate breath of characters in the cold clouding the camera lens. I took it for granted as a box-office success and a contender for the Best Picture Oscar. Who had seen such marvels lately in a movie? ...I had to see the film again for that excitement to be challenged, and for the bleakness of The Revenant to strike home.

  • Iñárritu’s film is a revenge parable that wears its beauty and its batshit-crazy backstory on its sleeve. But it’s also clearly the work of a visionary director, one who saw a transcendental tale of man versus nature in the real-life Glass’s journey, and went to insane lengths to find a form befitting of that deeply embedded material.

  • It's so ridiculously macho that parts of it are hilarious, in the way that certain R-rated 1980's action films starring Arnold Schwarzenegger Sylvester Stallone are hilarious. It is, rather paradoxically, both austere and extravagant, embracing a highly concentrated, at times minimalist visual aesthetic while piling on the machismo.

  • ...This is arguably The Revenant’s greatest achievement: turning a derogatory term into an existential condition yielding a new visual field. Complementing and qualifying the film’s spectacular vistas is a mode of seeing far more subdued: spare, deliberately unemotional, almost impersonal — the observational style of a bereaved eye.

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