SPECIAL FEATURE and REVIEW : The Revenant

alexandra Boyd
The guest author of this review Alexandra Boyd at the London premiere of “The Revenant” last year

What can I tell you about The Revenant that you haven’t already heard? The director was a slave driver. The crew left in droves due to the inhumane conditions. Studio heads hyperventilated as the budget ballooned. Many of these things were said of another other film Leonardo DiCaprio starred in. The one about the boat? Yeah. And that won a gazillion Oscars if you remember.

The five star reviews don’t help *guilty*, because then comes the inevitable backlash of “Meh, don’t know what all the fuss is about”. It comes from too much hype, a Golden Globe sweep and fourteen (count them!) Oscar nominations. However, please go and see it. Nothing should take away from the sheer masterly achievement in filmmaking that you will witness. Your jaw will drop to see the feats that Alejandro, Leo, Tom and some of the stunning Brit actors in the cast, have pulled off.

The Revenant is why we go to the cinema. It’s why I want to make films. We love to see human drama played out on an unbelievable scale. We want to say “How did they doooo that?”. Until I saw this film – um three times in the cinema, my friends (hardcore, I know) I thought CAROL was the tip top offering of last year. But that was before I sat through two hours and thirty six minutes of sheer cinematic heaven set in the frozen hell of a 19th century American frontiersmen.

A different kettle of beaver pelts all together.

And what else did you read? The bear rapes Leonardo DiCaprio? Whaaaat? It’s a mummy bear protecting her cubs, you sillies. And she does it in a most disturbing one-shot sequence of flawless CGI. Admittedly, I missed most of it until the third viewing because I was hiding behind my coat.

On Leo’s epic journey of revenge and survival, we understand the Law of the Tundra in this huge tale where every man, woman and creature is fighting to survive. We’re plunged headlong into the action from the very first battle that, like the opening sequence of Saving Private Ryan, will have you gasping for breath. Leo endures freezing temperatures (don’t know how he didn’t catch pneumonia), almost starving to death and septicemia from his wounds as all the while, Native Americans watch from him the hills in the biggest game of hide and seek you ever saw.

There’s no number of award nominations and brilliant or bad reviews can recreate the experience of seeing this film. Which, did I mention, I’ve done three times. Three times!

A TV screen will never do for this film what it says on the tin. Everything from the cinematography and Leonardo DiCaprio’s searing performance to Tom Hardy’s villain, that you almost muster some empathy for, to the amazing wildlife and breathtaking landscapes and the desperate plight of the Native Americans.

Could there have been a few more female characters? Of course there could! But then the American Frontier had few women doing what Hugh Glass and his cohorts were doing. I’d have hated more to see a token female character in there to make up the numbers. Part of Glass’ survival tools are the memories of his beautiful Pawnee wife. She helps keep him alive, so that must not be forgotten…

An exquisite sound design and musical score combine wonderfully throughout but never over-inform how we should feel. The music brilliantly leads us to the final frame with a pulsing beat as bass strings alternate with the sound of Hugh Glass’ breath.

He’s still alive.

Leo deserved the Oscar that was denied for Wolf of Wall Street. Tom Hardy had an accumulation of performances that includes both Cray Twins in Legend and Max in Mad Max. Alejandro G. Inarritu deserved the Oscar (Best Director) for the second year in a row (Birdman in 2014)

Just wait for that backlash.

It’s a MASTERPIECE.

FIVE STARS – for the Best Western – or should that be Northern? Brrr!!!

(The guest author of this article is Alexandra Boyd  whose varied career in film, television, theatre and voiceover, spans more than thirty years. Her Hollywood credits include MR HOLLAND’S OPUS with Richard Dreyfuss, THE BIG THING with Bryan Cranston, FROM PARIS WITH LOVE with John Travolta and James Cameron’s TITANIC. She is a film critic for “The Mutton Club” and holds both British and US passports. Currently she is working on her debut directorial feature “Widow’s Walk”.)

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