If you have recently seen The Revenant and didn’t like it, don’t blame the movie… blame yourself. I saw many people walking out from the theatres and many others complain online on how ‘meh’ it is. Bob Dylan said in one of his songs: ‘Don’t criticise what you can’t understand’. I’m not saying you’re dumb but I’m not saying you’re not. Viewing movies in particular and art in general is all about aligning expectations. You can’t go to a rave party and complain that the music is too loud, or go to a jazz concerto and complain that the music is too slow. The Revenant is not an average movie made for few chuckles and kicks with friends, it’s a heavy artistic portrayal of the director’s vision of the book. If it’s not your cup of tea, that doesn’t mean it sucks!
Here are 10 reasons The Revenant is an amazing film:
1. The Setting: The Revenant takes place in heaven. Every scene is set in an amazing location with a breath-taking view. Even if there were no characters and no story, it would still be a treat to watch.
2. How it Looks (Cinematography): I’m not a director myself nor a camera operator, but I’ve been watching movies since I was child (haven’t we all?), and I’ve never seen a camera that moves like that. Let alone that they only shot in natural light, treating us to a series of gem shots of natural landscapes and character emotions. Maybe the real star of this movie is Emmanuel Lubezki, the cinematographer that helped Inarritu to give us those visually dense frames.
3. The Hero’s Journey: Inarritu shows us heaven but takes us through hell. Yes, it might not be the standard character arc that Hollywood is used to present, maybe that’s why the average viewer felt a bit off about it, but instead we went on an intimate journey with Glass through the freezing wilderness from the depths of death to [spoiler] sweet revenge.
4. The Performances: All performances. The make-up, the music, the director, the guy that cleans on set, probably catering was also awesome. I’m not going to say anything about Tom Hardy and Leo.. the trailer shows enough.
5. No Shortcuts and Un-cliche-ness: Cinematic familiar motifs like fast cuts and close-ups which disguise the surrounding are often used in Hollywood to cheat the audience and create constructed stories in their mind. The Revenant doesn’t take that easy way. It leaves you there with the character in all-awkwardness and intensity to live the entire moment with him, which gives the audience a feeling of no escape of relief. No gimmicks, no tricks, no cutaways. The film is screaming with intense visual language that the plot is never pushed forward by dialogue, in fact you rarely hear the characters speak. The silence fused with the meditative bohemian score creates a haunting pressure which feels like a stone on the chest.
6. True Story: The movie is based on a true story and an amazing book with the same title. Although that doesn’t make it a better film, but it gives the movie an extra dimension of relevance. Someone actually suffered like that, it’s ok if you sit for 2 hours on a red velvet cushion seat and watch this amazing work about it.
7. There’s Nothing else Like it: You can’t compare it to any other movie, that is an achievement by itself. To be original in the age of copy/paste is something worth giving credit for. And it’s definitely a treat if you watch the movie with an open mind, not with a Hollywood-brainwashed mind.
8. The Experience: When you see a movie you see a movie. When you’re done with this one, it won’t feel like you just saw a movie. It feels like an actual journey. The intimacy of the movie will give you a vertigo as if you actually took that journey through freezing wilderness.
9. The Accuracy of Portrayal: Rarely does a movie portray the feel of the book so accurately. We always hear: The book is so much better than the movie. Although, the movie does cut out a lot of stories from the book, but it still feels the same: A brutal backstory of a John Steinbeck world.
10. Subtle Complex Staging: Every scene is staged down to its very last detail to tell the most in the least time and shots possible. Leaving space for breathing, intimacy, landscapes, and just beautiful moments on screen. It’s not very obvious when you’re watching, which means that what they attempted worked perfectly. Achieving subtlety on screen requires complex production work.
It’s not an easy film to watch, but it’s rewarding if you saw it with the right mindset. At the end of the day, it’s an actual artistic attempt to create something beautiful and not to merely sell tickets using cleavage, explosions and catchy phrases.. .which puts it at risk of not being enjoyed by the common viewer.