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Whatever the Rigors of Its Making, ‘The Revenant’ Is Haunting, Riveting Cinema (Review & Roundup)

Whatever the Rigors of Its Making, 'The Revenant' Is Haunting, Riveting Cinema (Review & Roundup)

Alejandro Gonzalez Iñárritu and his cinematographer Emmanuel “Chivo” Lubezki (who also collaborates with Terrence Malick and Alfonso Cuaron) had practice creating extended long shots on “Birdman,” but this frontier actioner marks another order of magnitude in terms of epic scale and budget ($135 million). Shot on harsh wintry locations in Alberta and Tierra del Fuego, the virtually all-exterior revenge adventure could have completely fallen apart without a very specific road map based on extensive rehearsals and intricately executed camera moves in an hour-and-a-half of natural light per day.

This was tough on the actors, who had to find their characters while moving in perfect sync with Lubezki’s pre-choreographed new Alexa cameras. Very Malick with minimal dialogue and dreamy voiceovers, “The Revenant” demanded that bearded Leonardo Di Caprio and Tom Hardy as 19th-century fur trappers hunted by Native Americans haul their cold bodies through snow, across rugged terrain on horseback, and in and out of icy water. While this production may be up there with Francis Ford Coppola’s “Apocalypse Now” as a nightmare shoot for the ages, the result is a stunning visual tone poem about frontier survival, accompanied by Ryuichi Sakamoto’s haunting score. And DiCaprio delivers a quiet, emotional and athletic performance that could finally win him his Oscar.

Read other reviews of “The Revenant” from around the web below.

Eric Kohn, Indiewire:

“The grisly account of nineteenth century explorer Hugh Glass
— left for dead in the South Dakota wilderness after a near-fatal bear attack —
it presents that dilemma in wonderfully dynamic terms: The ever-reliable
Emmanuel ‘Chivo’ Lubezki reteams with Iñárritu to craft a series of
astoundingly intense sequences, aided in large part by a ferocious turn by
Leonardo DiCaprio as the abandoned lead. It’s a bracing alternative to
unimaginative studio blockbusters, but marred by the lingering sense that it’s
never much more than that.”

Justin Chang, Variety:
“[I]n attempting to merge a Western revenge thriller, a
meditative epic in the Terrence Malick mold, and a lost-in-the-wilderness
production of near-Herzogian insanity, ‘The Revenant’ increasingly succumbs to
the air of grim overdetermination that has marred much of Iñárritu’s past work:
It’s an imposing vision, to be sure, but also an inflated and emotionally
stunted one, despite an anchoring performance of ferocious 200% commitment from
Leonardo DiCaprio.”

Todd McCarthy, The Hollywood Reporter:
Pushing both brutal realism and extravagant visual poetry to
the edges of what one customarily finds in mainstream American filmmaking,
director/co-writer Alejandro G. Iñárritu, cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki and
a vast team of visual effects wizards have created a sensationally vivid and
visceral portrait of human endurance under very nearly intolerable conditions;
this is a film that makes you quite glad to have been born in a century with
insulation and central heating.”

Peter Bradshaw, The Guardian:

“‘The Revenant’ recalls Ford’s ‘The Searchers’ and modifies its
themes of tribal and sexual transgression and its cruel invocation of scalping;
the warriors who attack at first are enraged at the kidnap of a Native American
woman, Powaqa (Melaw Nakehk’o). At other times, Iñárritu appears to be inspired
by Herzog’s ‘Aguirre, Wrath of God,’ with the visions of imperial greed and the
vast river in full flood – or maybe his documentary ‘Grizzly Man,’ in which the
grim-faced Herzog famously listened on his headphones to the sound of someone
being mauled to death. There is arguably something of Altman in the wintry
frontier terrain and certainly a Malickian weightlessness in some of Glass’s
dreams of his wife. But what is so distinctive about this Iñárritu picture is
its unitary control and its fluency: no matter how extended, the film’s tense
story is under the director’s complete control and he unspools great
meandering, bravura travelling shots to tell it: not dissimilar, in some ways,
to his previous picture, ‘Birdman.’ The movie is as thrilling and painful as a
sheet of ice held to the skin.”

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