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The Revenant (2015)
January 23, 2016, 7:10 pm
Filed under: Reviews | Tags: , ,

Director: Alejandro González Iñárritu
3.5 Stars
The RevenantIn one of his rare moments of luck, a starved Hugh Glass (Leonardo DiCaprio) stumbles upon a pack of wolves attacking a herd of buffalo before they eventually single one out and take it down. Like a vulture, Glass waits for the scraps… only when his chance comes, it involves him literally crawling on his hands and knees to beg for a portion. If The Revenant partly works as a survivalist tale–a pure example of American can-do pragmatism–it is also a film that indulges this very sense of helplessness. As with the films of Werner Herzog, Alejandro González Iñárritu conceives of nature as something both hellish and indifferent, where man must scrape by as long as the world around him lets it be. The much-praised bear attack scene (not only The Revenant’s most successful moment but perhaps the best of Iñárritu’s career) is a horrifying manifestation of this theme. It happens casually, with Glass stumbling on a couple of bear cubs before the camera swings around to show the mother charging towards him. Iñárritu is often criticized for his sense of grandiosity–he is a filmmaker who aspires to make important films, and important films have lofty, miserable themes that deserve underlining–but the bluntness of this scene ironically showcases him at his most mysterious and rich. The repeated images of spirals and visual metaphors of rebirth don’t carry nearly the same weight as the bear’s actions, which alternates between territorial and impartial. In neglecting the impulse to weigh these images down with a false sense of overproduction, Iñárritu (and undoubtedly a huge chunk of the credit should go to ace cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki) impeccably abbreviates everything that the film is about.