Saturday, 16 January 2016

The Revenant on BLU RAY - A Review by Mark Barry...

"...You Speak Of Honour When You Don't Know What It Is..." 
The Revenant on BLU RAY

Balls-to-the-wall, visceral, epic filmmaking - I haven't seen an audience glued to the screen and engaged both mentally and physically with a movie since the halcyon days of "Gladiator" way back in 2000. Make no mistake - Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu's "The Revenant" will make you bleed-baby-bleed and more than earns it mighty 12 Oscar nominations by way of sheer bravura and the amazing visual feast your presented with from the first frame to the last. All this and you sit there thinking - I know they're only piddly nancy-boy ‘actors’ in the real world - but the cast must have gone through physical Hell to get this level of ‘real’ in the can...

Having said that – 2015’s “The Revenant” from the Oscar-winning Director of last year's "Birdman..." has its minor problems for sure. At 2 hours 40 minutes it’s overly long (feels more like three hours) – and in a bid to make you feel like you're in the moment - the dialogue comes at you off-screen at times as characters shout and scuffle - but I'm not sure if that trick works. Plus you could argue that you spend 70% of the movie watching Leonardo DiCaprio crawling around in mud and on icy ground (a lot) and Tom Hardy's Jeff Bridges "True Grit" mouth-full-of-marbles mumbling can be very difficult to decipher at times too. And that last shot stills puzzles. But overall - these are trivial things given that I noticed many people holding in wee-wee because they couldn't bear to miss twenty seconds of it.

And then there's the scenery brought to you by Cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki – a malevolent beast one moment - soul-stirring the next. You get 1820’s fur-trading British Columbia in the fall and winter – a relentless snowy wilderness with muck and more muck – creaking bare trees – icy breathes broken up by life-giving campfires – arrows in the neck – muskets blasting... Scene after scene seers its way into your brain - DiCaprio plunging into the icy waters of a river where he’s built a rock nook to trap fish swimming upstream – grabbing one of them with his bare hands and proceeding to munch into with ravenous teeth and starvation gusto – removing the innards and squatting naked inside of a felled horse to survive the night - buried in a clay grave dug for him by the greedy trapper John Fitzgerald (Tom Hardy) and left for dead – an Indian he befriends that builds a tepee of branches and furs as the blizzard rages so that the wounded and collapsed Glass can let his wounds recover - and the final knife battle with Hardy’s curmudgeon character as the snow turns a different colour than white.

But even more memorable than those is one of the film's centrepieces. Out scouting the woodland one morning - the two-prong attack on DiCaprio's character Glass by a three-ton grizzly bear (defending her two cubs) left the audience breathless and coiled in their seats in genuine horror. How they filmed this sucker I will never know – but if this is CGI's capability in 2015 - then it’s amongst the best I’ve ever seen – period. Ryuichi Sakamoto and Alva Noto's instrumental music is haunting throughout too – huge string chords that feel as epic as the landscape and pack a mighty punch. Smartly Inarritu also does well to not let the rivers and mountains and forests dominate everything by having scenes of real emotion as DiCaprio's character talks to his Indian wife's ghost in their native tongue – mumbling to his son that everything's going to be all right - love transcending the elements that seem to want to kill you at every moment.

The huge and seriously dedicated ensemble cast is uniformly stunning and must be mentioned. Leonardo DiCaprio plays hunter and trapper Hugh Glass who has married an Indian girl (actress Grace Dove, herself a Shuswap Indian) and fathered a son Hawk (a breakthrough performance from Forest Goodluck). But soldiers raised their village to the ground (as they did much of the indigenous population) and murdered his wife who now comes to him in whispers and dreams. Trapper Glass therefore protects his boy with a near heathen tenaciousness as his half-breed origins and burnt face (from the initial village attack) are ridiculed by another force of nature – Pelt Trader John Fitzgerald (a towering performance from England’s Tom Hardy). Trying to keep all the savagery at bay is Captain Andrew Henry played by Ireland's Domhnall Gleason (Brendan Gleeson's son) – another properly brilliant performance after his superb turns in "About Time", "Ex Machina" and "Star Wars: The Force Awakens". But even more impressive is the young British actor Will Poulter who plays the cherub-faced Bridger - a frightened and gullible boy in a cunning man's world - he is magnificent here. The huge array of real Red Indians are cast from varying surviving tribes and are suitably ferocious and giving in their different guises – scalping the devil white man in one scene and trying to negotiate ‘honour’ with a bunch of drunken French trappers in another. The rage of what was done to them and their women and children permeates throughout the entire film.

But its DiCaprio and Hardy who hold the whole thing together – both putting in huge performances that deserve statues. Their warring duo dynamic reminds me of “Jeremiah Johnson” (1972) and “Seraphim Falls” (see reviews) where two frontier men fight it out in the elements with knives and hatchets and anything else that comes to hand. There’s a scene by a night time fire where Hardy’s character talks of his starving father in the wilderness who discovers God in a cluster of trees – Hardy’s chilling survivalist instincts are the stuff of budding actor’s dreams and will surely be used at the Oscar ceremony by way of demonstrating what a powerhouse he’s become. And if Leo doesn’t bag a statue for this film – then someone in the Academy needs to be led to the nearest snowdrift and dropped there in their Sears and Roebuck underpants...

When it’s released - the BLU RAY will be a feast for both the eyes and ears – and I’m pre-ordering that home-cinema monster today.

Besides - as the credits rolled I noticed that two of the real Red Indian Actors used (portraying a Pawnee Prostitute and an Arikara Warrior) were called  'Mariah Old Shoes' and 'Cody Big Tobacco'. This is my kind of movie.

“The Revenant” isn’t Laura Ashley cutesy or Daniel Boone sappy for damn sure – and not everyone will enjoy its hurting storyline and our even darker treatment of the indigenous population of such a breathtaking landscape. But it is an astonishing piece of ‘event’ cinema that demands your attention.

And when you think about the sheer amount of fluff and lazy sequels out there in 2015 (and yet to come in 2016) - that’s an achievement worth supporting with my comfy ass on them there wilderness seats...

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