The Revenant (2015)

brooke Please enjoy this presentation of The Revenant! Try not to puke or fall asleep during your stay.

casey zzzzzz
The Revenant was boring.

brooke and violent

casey and, in fairness, sometimes very pretty. I just didn’t care much about what it was doing.

brooke I cared
about the gorgeous cinematography
and literally nothing else
Oh, wait, I also cared about Domnhall Gleeson’s handsome face and decent American accent. But those had little bearing on the movie.

casey So basically, The Revenant tells the story of an 1820s fur trapping expedition somewhere around Montana. From the opening scene shit hits all kinds of fans, as the expedition is attacked by Arikara Indians. A few survivors narrowly escape, including Hugh Glass (Leonardo DiCaprio), his son Hawk (Forrest Goodluck), Captain Henry (Gleeson), a young Jim Bridger, and the vulgar Tom Fitzgerald (Tom Hardy, in a performance best described as extremely Tom Hardy-esque). Things go from bad to worse when Glass is mauled by a grizzly bear in the first of many agonizingly long scenes of DiCaprio suffering. Without giving too much away, I’ll just say that he’s soon left for dead with a very good reason to be angry at Fitzgerald.

brooke the bear attack really did go on forever.
Being left for dead, covered in haphazardly-stitched claw marks, turns out to cause major problems for Glass, especially because the Arikara are still nearby, on a manhunt for a kidnapped member of their tribe. Lots of violent things happen, and Glass also some trippy dreams about his late wife.

casey It’s like Man vs. Wild meets Tree of Life. And if that sounds interesting…it’s not. I’m still trying to process exactly why. It may be that so much of the movie consists of long close-ups of DiCaprio grunting, scratching, clawing, and panting, which quickly gets exhausting. Things are better when characters are on the move: most scenes are shot continuously at or below eye level, with the camera constantly moving and circling. You’re put literally in the middle of the action, although it often makes the setting feel suffocatingly small.

brooke I think the continuous shots were better in Birdman (Alejanodro Inárritu’s last film) because there was more happening with each character. The interpersonal drama that drove Birdman was nonexistent here.

casey Birdman felt similarly claustrophobic at times, but that was offset by its oddball characters and sense of humor. In The Revenant, they’re all one-dimensional: Glass is entirely fixated on survival and revenge, Fitzgerald is a boorish coward, and almost everybody else exists to shout and/or be killed. There is a brief interlude where Glass travels with an entertaining Pawnee companion–I’d rather have watched a movie about him–but soon that’s over and we’re back to the emotional grind.

brooke I keep thinking about a student (I teach junior high) who said he loved this movie. I’m legitimately curious what he liked, because I can’t fathom finding anything to enjoy. Watching Glass suffer is just not compelling.
Maybe if they’d given Leo his Oscar for What’s Eating Gilbert Grape he wouldn’t have taken this insanely punishing role

casey I did like some things. A few scenes beautifully capture the movie’s cold and unfriendly world, when we see the emptiness of the mountain wilderness or extreme close-ups of freezing river rapids. But I never felt invested in Glass’s revenge arc, and Hardy’s mumbling, venal Fitzgerald is entertaining only in small doses.

brooke Ugh, I wanted someone to smack him across the back of his head every time he spoke.
Beautiful, punishing, and boring really does pretty much sum up this movie, don’t you think?

casey Pretty much. Of all the Best Picture nominees this year, this one is the weakest for me. But it won at the Golden Globes, so some people clearly are seeing something I’m not. If two and a half hours staring at Leonardo DiCaprio’s battered, bearded face sounds like your thing, go for it.

brooke Don’t forget his reenactment of the Tauntaun scene from Empire Strikes Back. I’m certain that’s what the people watched it for.

casey The Revenant: It won’t make you feel warm, and it smells bad on the outside.

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