An unapologetic visual peacock that uses expressive directing to justify its stay, The Revenant is a technical accomplishment beyond a filmmaker’s wildest dreams. From the illustrious long-takes, the popping colors of nature’s handsome curves, and the um… CGI bears, it’s all so triumphantly glamorous compared to the common feature-length. Alejandro González Iñárritu has done the impossible on the set of The Revenant, and I congratulate him with indescribable words. Between him and Alfonso Cuarón, these modern-day directors are the finest at moving a camera or actor like a peaceful breeze, capturing beauty and terror in the frames of diligent perfection.
Irrespective of what makes parts of The Revenant masterful, there is an obtrusive piece of the project that pulls me back from finding it, as a whole, great. Specifically, there are consequences to making a virtually shallow movie that attempts to be profound. Whether it be the repetitively abstract dream sequences that chain down the time, or Tom Hardy’s aimless speeches about God, or the character of Hikuc who’s used as a hackneyed plot device to have two similar but racially different men bond; this film is littered with superficial commentary that acts as if they’re ingenious or crucial to the revenge story at hand. It pretty much comes off as a feeble mimicking of something a Terrence-Malick-type would attempt to pull off.
What I adore about Iñárritu’s previous film Birdman is that it balanced its extroverted style and arresting subject matter so harmoniously. In The Revenant, the flow of the substance feels either moderately immature or just flat-out inconsistent with the ongoing plot. It wants to have both an A-class presentation and an A-class sense of poeticness, even if it means hastily sacrificing depth to trick an audience into believing that this standardly written revenge flick is something “more” than meets the eye.
Nevertheless, these hitches don’t make for too massive of an excuse to claim that The Revenant is something mediocre or worse. What the movie strives to accomplish in its grim survival and action spectacles, it accomplishes almost seamlessly. Even on a repeat viewing, I can’t lie that I wasn’t sucked into the violent world of Iñárritu’s interpretation of the Arikara War. It’s gripping to a pulp and jaw-dropping in countless moments due to a god-tier sense of optical direction. You simply don’t see ballsy movies like this every day.
Also, I’m glad that I rewatched this movie with subtitles on so I could finally understand what the f*** Tom Hardy was saying.
Verdict Change: B+ —> B-
“The Revenant” is now available to stream on YouTube, Google Play, iTunes, Vudu, Amazon Prime, and Hulu.