I’ve finally seen it. When I composed a list of the 20 most anticipated films to watch out for this awards season, this film was the first one on the list, and why shouldn’t it have been? Director of last year’s Best Picture winner at the Oscars was teaming up with one of the most accomplished cinematographers and Leonardo DiCaprio to create a story of survival and revenge in the frozen winter wilderness of the historical frontier. After watching the preview I couldn’t contain my excitement and had trouble keep my jaw from hitting the floor. I was dying to see this movie more than any other film that was to be released in 2015. And after finally seeing it, I must say I left the theater feeling rather disappointed.
I had time to reflect on my disappointed and see if it was because I hyped up the movie too much in my mind, but I didn’t. I went with an anticipated, yet open, mind and wasn’t given the results that I received from other greats from this year such as “Spotlight” and “Room.” Director Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu wanted so badly for this movie to be a survival epic that broke new ground, almost in a way that “Apocalypse Now” has done. I can see many similarities between the production and composition of this film and the Coppola classic, but unfortunately Inarritu isn’t quite at Coppola’s level and this movie is missing many key components that make “Apocalypse Now” one of the best films of all time. An epic of poetic chaos, this film just feels like a self-indulgent, narcissistic attempt at creating greatness from a director that went a bit mad after his success with “Birdman.” It’s a movie that thinks it’s all that, but in the end really isn’t. It’s similar in a way to Kanye West, with his notion that whatever he creates is groundbreaking art, but in the case of Mr. West, his musical creations support his mentality.
There is a splattering of memorable scenes in this film, with the first half an hour being brilliantly crafted, but these moments are dispersed between long draughts of nothingness. It’s as if Inarritu spent more time trying to make this film look visually appealing to the eyes than focusing on the story itself, although it does look absolutely stunning. Using natural lighting for the entirety of the film was definitely an expensive and challenging task, but one that pays off magnificently in terms of how the film looks on screen and will more than certainly guarantee a Best Cinematography award victory. Looking good doesn’t guarantee greatness though; it’s similar to a girl who spends significant amounts of time on her make up and looking good but has no personality to go along with it. There’s no sense of character or sense of connection the subjects of this grand struggle.
DiCaprio’s character, Glass, has minimal background connection whatsoever, making it difficult to fully grasp the type of person we are working with. Hardy’s character (Fitzgerald), while being the antagonist, is much easier to connect with and thus enhances Hardy’s performance. Quite frankly I thought that Hardy was better than DiCaprio in this film. There’s all this buzz going around that DiCaprio will win best actor at long last, but why? Since when did heavy breathing for two hours and eating a bison liver classify as good acting? I understand that he dedicated a lot to this role, but that doesn’t mean his acting was superior to anyone else’s. He will still win the award because he, more than anyone else in Hollywood, deserves it given his career, but he will win solely because he hasn’t yet rather than this one singular performance. Michael Fassbender gave a better acting performance in “Steve Jobs” than DiCaprio was in this film.
Overall, this film looks amazing and has some amazing moments and strong directing from Inarritu, but it’s not enough to make up for all the pitfalls. I never felt like I was enjoying the film at any point; I was struggling to get through just like the DiCaprio’s character was. I couldn’t wait for it to be over and was too relieved when it finally was for me to say that I enjoyed the film overall. It’ll win a couple of Oscars, but it’s far from the best that we’ve seen this year.
The Revenant (2015): 2.5/4 stars