First Reactions: 'The Revenant' Thrills and Polarizes

Reviews are embargoed until December 4, but critics and Oscar-watchers got their first look at “The Revenant” last night, and the insta-reactions were both awestruck and overwhelmed. Alejandro González Iñárritu’s 156-minute survival odyssey drew frequent comparisons to Terrence Malick, with cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki shooting with natural light in a forbidding and frozen landscape. Repeating his “Birdman” strategy, González Iñárritu stressed the rigors of the shoot at the post-screening Q&A, likening it to the scene where Leonardo DiCaprio’s character does battle with an angry bear — that sound you hear is Werner Herzog texting a thousand eyeroll emojis — and DiCaprio compared the struggle to shoot in the waning light to the rush of shooting “Saturday Night Live,” only without the jokes. Talk quickly turned to whether DiCaprio or Lubezki would wind up as Oscar winners, but critics who keep their distance from the race cast a more skeptical eye on the film, suggesting its flash isn’t backed up by much in the way of substance. “The Revenant” doesn’t open until Christmas Day, but with longer reviews breaking next week and an aggressive awards campaign being waged on the film’s behalf, we’ll be hearing much more about it before then.

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