“”The Revenant” is perhaps one of the most harrowing adventure movies that I have ever seen.”
When l learned that Alejandro González Iñárritu’s The Revenant was nominated for Best Picture, as well as Best Actor for Leonardo DiCaprio on top of ten other categories, my interest in seeing the movie began to ebb because if I’ve learned one thing, it’s that the mysterious cabal that chooses which movies are worthy of a nomination are a bunch of pretentious sods that seemingly care less about whether or not a movie is actually entertaining.
That, combined with the dreaded ‘Inspired By True Events’ label, which typically is a guarantee that everything that you see on screen is barely even a close approximation of what actually happened, you’d think that The Revenant would be doomed.
So, going into the movie expecting an overpriced, pretentious art film, imagine my surprise to learn that it’s really entertaining–despite DiCaprio not being raped by a bear.
What González Iñárritu has done is make perhaps one of the most realistic adventure films that I have ever seen, in that he–as well as his cinematographer, Emmanuel Lubezki–have created a beautiful as well as expansive world that despite being in 2D is remarkably immersive.
Though beyond the excellent performances by DiCaprio, Tom Hardy and the rest of the cast, it felt in an odd way like I had seen this movie before, and though it took me awhile, I finally recalled where.
Alejandro González Iñárritu had somehow managed to convince someone to hand him $135 million to make what is in many ways a reboot of Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey.
For a start, both movies subvert traditional musical cues, so major happenings aren’t telegraphed before they actually happen. For instance, when the trappers Hugh Glass (Leonardo DiCaprio) were traveling with were attacked, it just happened, with no musical cues to alert the viewer that there’s a huge tonal and plot shift coming.
Another thing both films have in common is they were directed by men with an unrelenting perfectionism, which could be difficult for the people they had to work with.
Stanley Kubrick was known for shooting a scene multiple times, though I suspect 127 takes exceptional even by his standards.
González Iñárritu not only shot the movie in the order scenes played out (which is unusual as well as difficult. Typically movies are shot out of order, and reassembled in editing) but the shoot itself was so difficult that some members of his crew thought that it was the worse experience of their careers.
A central theme of both movies is isolation and moving from the known, into the unknown–or perhaps even the unknowable.
In fact, the most significant difference between the two films is on the surface, in that Kubrick envisioned a cold, efficient future (seemingly designed by Apple, or is it the other way around?) while González Iñárritu recreated a cold, brutal past that despite taking place on Earth, looks as otherworldly as anything created by Kubrick.
What’s also really interesting is that both films also–in a metaphorical sense in The Revenant–evoke dimensions and worlds beyond our own. And despite the limitations of technology at the time–Kubrick was better able to touch the mystical than González Iñárritu, who’s attempts to depict the sublime and the magical sometimes came off as silly.
Perhaps most importantly, both directors have shown us that despite the corporate, assembly line-like approach of producing movies these days there will always be people who are bold enough, who are idiosyncratic enough, to enable the audience to see things in ways they never had before.