• Review: The Revenant (2015)

    From David N. Butterworth@21:1/5 to All on Sun Jun 19 12:58:31 2016
    THE REVENANT (2015)
    A film review by David N. Butterworth
    Copyright 2016 David N. Butterworth

    *** (out of ****)

    So, if you don't want to watch a gruff and bearded Leonardo DiCaprio
    grunting his way through a harsh, unforgiving landscape for two-and-a-half hours, because you're no fan of "art house" movies in general, or director Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu specifically, and just want to get to "The Revenant"'s good stuff, you should probably just Google the phrase
    "revenant bear attack" to see the part everyone's talking about. Psych!
    If you do that, what you'll get is some long-haired and long-winded Zeroh (first name Mike) *talking* about the bear attack for seven-and-a-half
    minutes, which might well be longer than the scene itself. There are technically three attacks in the film, one after another in rapid
    succession, all by the same bear, all at Leo DiCaprio's expense, which only
    add to the lazy hazy craziness of it all, because just as the audience has heaved a huge collective sigh of relief after the first brutal encounter,
    the bear is back again to finish the job, and then back again a third time--enough already!--just to make absolutely sure Leo's lunch-ready. It really does appear to be toying with DiCaprio's grizzled frontier explorer
    Hugh Glass, after it's mauled him and bitten him and tossed him around some
    and dragged him down and sniffed his head and stomped on his back and left
    him for dead. Fortunately, a few of Glass' comrades refuse to leave him, bundling him into a rough-hewn stretcher-type contraption as he grunts and wheezes and spits up blood. That bear gave him quite the going over but
    Leo eventually triumphs with a few jaunty knife thrusts to the jugular.
    Even in death, the 700-pound bear gets the last laugh, landing atop Leo
    after the two tumble down an incline together. According to Mike Z., this
    all happens in the film's first hour, so you can safely skip the next 90 minutes. Mike also tells us that the (spoiler alert!) CGI bear is really
    good (it's not a real bear). Actually, what he says is "What I really love about the scene is how real it felt. The CGI bear? It was done
    perfectly. Well, I gotta say, whoever was in charge of that CGI bear, it
    was perfectly well done. Sure, there were a couple of flaws in certain micro-sequences where it's like, 'Err, that kinda didn't seem like how a
    bear would move, how a bear would necessarily look that up close...' But
    you know what? About 95% of the time with this bear, in the bear attack
    scene in "The Revenant," it was perfectly well done, probably one of the
    best CGI bears I've ever seen, honestly. I'm going to say that right from
    the heart here: best CGI bear I've seen in a long-ass time." I perfectly
    well agree with Mike here. For that's all people tend to talk about about
    "The Revenant" anyway. The bear attack. It is, after all, the explanation
    for the film's title: "revenant [rev-uh-nuh-nt]. noun. a person who returns
    as a spirit after death; a ghost." I suppose the other thing they talk
    about is DiCaprio winning the Oscar--finally already!--for his performance
    in the film. He certainly throws himself into the role with gusto.
    However, post-mauling, DiCaprio is largely flat on his back, unable to
    move, much less able to speak--he moans and groans and gurgles and spits up
    and suffers terribly, bleeding up a storm. Nobody thinks he's going to
    make it, and a couple of men (Tom Hardy and Will Poulter) and Glass' son
    Hawk (Forrest Goodluck) stay behind and promise to give him a decent burial when the time comes (as commanded by their superior, played by Domhnall Gleeson, also sporting a bushy beard). But eventually, after dramatic
    betrayal and abandonment, Glass can crawl through the dirt, straining all
    the while, and later still he's up on his feet, almost, limping along with
    a branch for support. He catches a fish and eats it raw--awesome! Then he moves on to raw buffalo meat (some wolves bring one down, totally). He
    even rubs some gunpowder on his neck and ignites it to cauterize a wound.
    I'm glad they gave Leonardo the Oscar for "The Revenant" but it feels more
    like a critical mass decision to me (he's been nominated four times
    previously but never won). Don't ask my wife to do an impression of
    DiCaprio playing Johnny Depp's disabled brother in "What's Eating Gilbert Grape?" (Leo's first nomination, for Best Supporting Actor, in 1993). It's
    not very charitable. Don't get me wrong, Leonardo is good in "The
    Revenant." Very good. And the CGI bear, of course, is also very good.
    But Hardy is good too, and Gleeson is good--even Poulter ("We're the
    Millers") is surprisingly good. I wish they had given Leo the Oscar before
    now though, for "The Aviator," or for "Django Unchained" (he wasn't even nominated for that one), or for "The Departed" (ditto that). But after
    "The Revenant" I guess one could say DiCaprio's Glass is finally half
    full. Whoever was in charge of that CGI bear should have received some
    kind of recognition too. The film *was* nominated for Best Achievement in Visual Effects, but I think "Ex Machina" got that one. Don't get me wrong,
    "Ex Machina" had excellent visual effects (*and* Domhnall Gleeson). But it
    was singularly lacking in bears, CGI or AI or otherwise.

    David N. Butterworth

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