Posted Dec 08 2015

The Revenant - This Movie Grisly Rocks (And Grizzly Rocks)

Dir: Alejandro G. Inarritu

Starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Tom Hardy, Domhnall Gleeson, Will Poulter

We here at LastWord Towers were lucky enough earlier today to be invited to a special BAFTA voters screening of The Revenant on a rather massive IMAX screen, with Leo due to show up to tout for votes afterwards. He duly showed and took the whole thing very seriously (he really wants to win this year); he was unexpectedly joined however by Tom Hardy who seemed far less concerned, more or less admitted that he really wasn’t all that committed to the film and suggested he should perhaps just shut up.

It was a touch of light relief in what had up to that point been a particularly grim afternoon. Get this straight – The Revenant for all its visual splendour and beauty at times, is not an easy watch. It is almost unrelentingly gruesome and violent – at our screening women screamed as fingers got axed, teenage boys who spend half their lives wilfully killing others on Call Of Duty were said to be shocked. And whilst last week’s stories were inaccurate and the bear never actually rapes Leo – it sure as hell knocks the shit out of him.

All of which is not to say this is not an enjoyable film. It’s just a gruelling one. Inarritu, and his favoured DP Emmanuel Lubezki’s decision to film only in natural light, might have made for a protracted shooting schedule, but the result is a jaw-droppingly gorgeous film to look at, a succession of images ripped asunder all the more powerfully for the level of violence they contain.

DiCaprio probably has more on screen injustice applied to him here that just about any actor in history. If he’s not being ripped asunder by a bear – who comes back for seconds! – he’s watching his son being murdered and being buried alive by his comrades. If he’s not crawling across vast amounts of frozen tundra, he’s getting his hands on a horse and riding it off the edge of a fucking cliff. But, he picks himself up, dusts himself down…revenge, after all, is a major motivator.

The Revenant is a very commendable film. But it’s a hard film to warm to – and not just for its arctic locales. It’s a film that for all the beauty of its palette, embraces darkness. In fact, at times, seems to be able to detect nothing else in the human soul. But it’s undeniably powerful, if never moving.

It is of course, out to make a big noise in the awards conversation and whilst it’s very much a player, it’s not the clear front runner that many awards bloggers claimed in advance of it even screening. It is very clearly the work of a filmmaker at the top of his powers, but having only just won for the more accessible Birdman, we don’t see Inarritu going all the way this year.  Lubezki, however, picking up an Oscar for the third successive year, is not only a distinct possibility, but would be totally justified.

And as for Leo – denied so many times in the past – whilst there is a distinct feeling out there that this is “his year,” The Revenant is not his best work. Don’t get us wrong, it’s very good, for what is mostly a dialogue free performance which becomes very heavy on the grunting front. It’s undeniably the thing the whole movie hangs on, and as ever the man delivers.

If The Revenant fails to pay off on the previously presumed awards front, it may well be that the movie is simply too harrowing for the delicate sensibilities of the Oscar/BAFTA voters, a group that tend not to reflect the way the critics are thinking in any given year.

But it is still a remarkable film and one that should be seen. Just don’t expect it to be an easy watch.  


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