Leonardo Dicaprio goes Grizzly Adams and a) seeks revenge for the death of half-breed son to the hands of White Man that speak with Forked-Tongue b) finds Bears most certainly do shit in the woods and when they do it’s best not to disturb them.
Many would say that any film’s first and foremost task is the suspension of disbelief, to keep the viewer in the world the film has created and not allow them to slip back into reality. However for me this has become increasingly replaced with the task of stopping me slipping into unconsciousness - the suspension of sleep.
Now if that seems like the start of a scathing review of the Revenant - well I’m going to kick you right out of that world. I actually quite liked the film but I’m not really too sure of what it’s about - because I kept falling asleep in it. I’ve tried watching it a few times - and probably will again - because it looks great and I really enjoyed DiCaprio's performance. Of late I've been really impressed with Dicaprio's skills. He's made some amazing movies over the years - The Departed, Shutter Island, Inception; he was great in The Wolf of Wall Street and he’s gonna get nominated for an Oscar for this - but that wasn't enough to keep me from falling asleep.
Now as I’m writing this I’ve finally figured out what my problem with the film really is - it’s to do with the elephant in the room - Tom Hardy. I’ve seen Hardy is some films I’ve really liked recently too. I thought he was great in with Noomi Rapace and James Gandolfini in The Drop and his one-hander Locke was excellent. For me he was utterly convincing in both of those and therein lies the rub: I wasn't convinced by him in The Revenant. There was one scene where he’s sitting with his back to a tree with his hat off so you can see his scalped head - and he’s talking and I didn't quite recognise him. The scene is quite early on and I was convinced and I wondered, I am being prejudiced against him, because his performances are always so earnest, (he is the modern ‘method actor’) and as soon as I see ‘Tom Hardy’ I just see him acting - being earnest. For me for this film to succeed his character has to really standout and the performance has to be a tour de force that makes you see beyond the actor - so as the object of Dicaprio's nemesis if I don't as a viewer get a true sense of disgust and rage at him then what’s the point of the entire film? It feels like the filmmakers really want to get across the message that the frozen western frontier is really the enemy - but an amoral and unconcerned one. They don't want to put all the harshness on Hardy’s character so they seek to reflect his moral desolation in the set pieces and when that's not enough they start with the native American mysticism and exoticism - and that’s where I really got turned off. I felt it unnecessary and that sort of thing generally rubs me the wrong way. It’s like every 15/30 mins they wanna go all Apocalypto meets Apocalypse Now on us while we marvel at the gods and spirits of America that were lost to progress. There are nods to so many 70s films about 'half-breeds' with the son that Dicaprio must avenge - will the spirits of the forefathers help him? For me that’s not revenant it’s redundant.
Having said all that I would say the film is far from redundant - the parts I remained awake for I enjoyed (put it this way I fell asleep the first 5 times I watched Apocalypse Now and that’s now a favourite of mine). As I said previously it does look fantastic - and I can see myself watching it again. I just wish we could dispense with the ‘white man speak with fork tongue’ routine.
Oh I should really mention that Di Caprio acts the part really well when a CGI Bear whups his ass. I guess I didn't earlier because of three letters - C, G, I.