Maybe by now you’ve heard of this movie called “The Revenant.”
It’s gained a fair amount of notice after being nominated for 12 Oscars (including best picture, best actor and best director) and after it won three awards at the Golden Globes.
“The Revenant” – a reference to a person who has returned, especially from the dead – depicts Leonardo DiCaprio as a top-notch frontiersman leading a troupe of trappers.
They confront Indian attacks, ferocious weather and each other in a tale of survival, greed and revenge.
Think “Death Wish” meets “Dances With Wolves.”
DiCaprio’s character, after being viciously mauled in a grizzly bear attack, is left for dead by his fellow travelers, particularly one who is expertly depicted by Tom Hardy.
(Hardy, in my opinion, was the best performance of the movie and justifiably got an Oscar nomination for best supporting actor.)
Given the considerable buzz about “The Revenant,” I was looking forward to being swept off my feet the way I was in watching “Spotlight” or “Mad Max: Fury Road.”
Alas, what I was treated to was two-plus hours of pretty scenery, a computer-generated bear attack and a depiction of brutal living conditions in the woods.
I thought the movie was solid but just not worthy of Oscar contention.
Much has been made about how the cast, DiCaprio in particular, subjected themselves to extremes for the sake of the film: Wading into icy rivers and coping with temperatures well below zero.
Well bully for them, I say.
But the movie felt like one giant stunt after another meant to call attention to how difficult it was to shoot. For that reason, I found it rather self-indulgent.
How did what the “The Revenant” cast and crew put up with in the Canadian Rockies and in Argentina any different than the extremes the cast and crew of “Mad Max” endured in the south African desert?
Don’t misunderstand me: From a technical point of view, the natural beauty and visuals in “The Revenant” are stunning. But I could get those in a calendar. And stunning visuals do not an Oscar contender make.
My real gripe about the movie is that I was not emotionally invested in the story or DiCaprio’s character. I found myself not caring what happened to him.
I was a big fan of “The Revenant” director A.G. Iñárritu, whose “Birdman” last year was, I thought, masterful and original.
Yes, “The Revenant” had some memorable scenes, such as the well-publicized bear attack, which I had hard time believing DiCaprio’s character would truly be able to survive.
For an idea of how detached I felt from the movie consider this: The very final scene is of DiCaprio, bearded, bedraggled and bloodied. He looks right into the camera and all I could think of was how it reminded me of Michael Palin’s bearded man short essay on duties of good citizen
Bottom line: “The Revenant” struck me as the product of extraordinary movie-making simply for the sake of extraordinary movie-making.
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