2016, Leonardo DiCaprio, Tom Hardy, Will Poulter
January has always proved difficult for any film released but if there was one film that people were convinced would break this cycle, it was The Revenant.
Inspired by true events (apparently?) Leonardo DiCaprio plays an 18th century frontiersman Hugh Glass who is left for dead by his companions after a horrifying bear attack and a unimaginable betrayal at the hand of his confidant John Fitzgerald.
The film opens with a stunning action sequence as Indians attack the frontier base in an attempt to steal their pelts. This scene was masterfully shot and at times looked as if it was done in one take. I don't believe that it was but the camera work and clever editing made it so believable and didn't break immersion for a second. This scene really set the tone for the rest of the film and I instantly wanted more.
The acting is top notch across the board, DiCaprio shines in this film and his portrayal of a grief stricken survivor was as believable as it was heartbreaking. He constantly delivered a deeply unsettling performance and clearly had to endure a lot throughout filming. You felt every punch, scrape and fall as his situation went from bad to worse, an exhausting but thrilling watch! Tom Hardy was a good but slightly monotone villain, his performance came across as erratic and his character could deceive those around but also break out into unspeakable acts of violence and cruelty. The sign of a good villain is when you root for them to get their just desserts at the end, Tom Hardy's acting provoked this feeling very early on in the film. The supporting cast were solid all round with a great performance from Will Poulter, glad to see this young British star getting more roles in major films he is one to watch.
The real stars of The Revenant however were the cameramen, they deserve to be paid just as much as the actors for pulling some of the insane and dangerous shots this film has to offer! So many times I found myself asking 'how did they do that one?' these moments became so frequent I no longer cared and just sat back and revelled in what in what was nothing less than visual poetry.
All the acting and camera tricks aside there are problems with The Revenant, some of them rather obvious. The main problem is with the plot, it has a huge low point in it's middle act and just doesn't seem to progress forward in what seems like minutes on end. The pacing of the first third and final act are fine but it really does stumble as it links these together, at least 30 minutes maybe more could have been cut without losing major plot points. Another thing that may put people of is the inconsistent tone, the film has very artistic shot and mixes in dreamlike sequences as the plot pushes forward. These are very distracting and at times felt totally unnecessary, they didn't match up at all with the violent and gritty ending. The ending is another problem, almost 2 and half hours we build up towards the final battle only for it to be riddled with cliques and a cop out 'make up your own mind' final scene.
The Revenant is a visual and technical triumph and will undoubtedly be talked about for years to come. It has a strong cast and some memorable action sequences. It is held back from greatness however due to it overly long runtime, inconsistent tone/ideas and limp-wristed finale. Is 2016 finally Leo's year? That remains to be seen...