“The Revenant” is one of the most viscerally beautiful movies I have ever seen. Director Alejandro González Iñárritu and cinematographer Emmanuel “Chivo” Lubezki made the fascinating decision to use natural light almost exclusively throughout the entire film, and it pays off magnificently. The winter light feels almost lazy as it bends around frosty trees and bounces off the snow-covered ground. At times there is barely enough light to truly see what’s happening on the screen, which only serves to heighten the film’s often tense atmosphere. This film is truly a feast for the eyes.
The acting in this film is absolutely top-notch. It’s easy to see why Leonardo DiCaprio was nominated for an Oscar for this role. He actually has a surprisingly small amount of dialogue, and half of that is in a foreign language. Most of Leo’s work is physical, and it’s demanding and brutal. Yet audiences connect with and sympathize for his character because his pain and anguish, his drive and determination come through so clearly. That’s not an easy thing for an actor to pull off without dialogue to aid them. I have to say, though, that while Leo was excellent, it was Tom Hardy who really blew me away. He was brilliant in his role, and I was really pleased to see he was also nominated for an Oscar. Hardy is barely recognizable as DiCaprio’s adversary, not just because of his crazy beard but because he doesn’t so much play the part as he inhabits the character. I wouldn’t be surprised if both of them walked away with golden statues next month.
The plot of the movie is very straightforward and there aren’t really any surprises, but that generally isn’t a hindrance. The revenge trope can still be fantastic to watch when done well, as it is here. The first third and the third third of the movie are tense and brilliant, even when audiences know what’s coming next. The middle third of the movie drags a bit in places. By this point in the film, it is clear where the plot is going, and there are times in the middle third where the film feels slow. It felt 10-15 minutes too long to me, and if the middle had been edited down a bit, the tenseness of the beginning and end parts would have carried through the entire run time.
And now on to the important questions:
Does it pass the Bechdel test? Oh, dear me, no. Not even close. There are two female characters in the entire movie, and I don’t think one of them even speaks. If she does, I can’t remember. This is a film populated almost exclusively by men.
How diverse is the cast? The main cast is mostly white, but I was pleasantly surprised by the number of Native Americans in the film and how big a role they played. Even better, the actors themselves are native peoples.
Will I need my reading glasses? Yes, definitely. Lots of subtitles to read.
How didn’t every character die of hypothermia and/or frostbite? I have no idea. They probably should have.
Should I go see this in the theater or wait till I can watch it at home? Go see it in the theater. This is a movie that begs to be seen on a large screen, it’s that gorgeous. It’s worth the price of admission just to know there are places on Earth that majestic and unspoiled.
Ardeospina is a stay-at-home mom with two young children, a new house, and a knitting obsession. She loves binge watching TV shows and collecting yarn and IKEA storage furniture. You can find her on Twitter@Ardeospina, and if she’s not there, you can leave a message at the beep.
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