Movie Review: The Revenant

Make way for the sensitive, grieving man in "The Revenant."

Make way for the sensitive, grieving man in “The Revenant.”

“The Revenant” is beautifully photographed, but its greatest impact is hampered by an incredibly long runtime (two hours, 36 minutes) and the high improbability of the narrative. Two things that could be improved with corrective story editing and possibly some re-shoots.

As it stands, the film directed by Alejandro G. Inarritu, is no more impressive than “The Outlaw Josey Wales” or perhaps “Little Big Man.” Plenty of other films come to mind while watching this lengthy and often preposterous story.

The Oscar nominations were inevitable, even before the film opened. We are bombarded with tales of how Inarritu punished the crew by insisting on a bare minimum of special effects. He took his actors and technicians into the wilds of winter for this harsh tale of survival. Leonardo DiCaprio (an high-calibre actor these days, more often than not) was such a trooper that maybe the Best Actor Oscar isn’t enough. Could we create a special Oscar for this guy? The tales of him making “The Revenant” are legend. Bull.

And, what about Tom Hardy? Like DiCaprio, one of my favorites. But, I would sooner see him earn gold for almost anything else he’s done besides the villain in this piece. His lowlife bigot is no better than some of the supporting bad guys in the aforementioned “Josey Wales.” No, Inarritu has the folks in Hollywood buffaloed. His poops don’t stink.

As for the plot, DiCaprio plays an experienced hunter guiding white trappers through hostile Native American territory in the early 19th century. Hugh Glass is a bit of a wimp, married to a native woman who now visits him in dream sequences.  She is killed during a gratuitous slaughter sequence that is constantly revisited.

Glass is betrayed by one of the trappers after getting severely mauled by a grizzly bear. The bear fight was pretty awful and reminded me of “Legends of the Fall.” In fact, some people insist that the Brad Pitt film was Oscar-worthy as well. It wasn’t. The bear fight was the first sign that it was going to be a long evening. It makes me wonder if Inarritu is grounded enough to make a big Hollywood film that allows you to suspend disbelief. Seriously, what is he smoking?

There were other silly scenes as well, including an impossible jump off a cliff and hiding inside the carcass of a horse. “The Revenant” is no “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.” If you jump off a cliff, you die. Unless, you’re making a comedy, of course.

Here’s the deal. There’s a difference between a rugged adventure story and fantasy. You can a have a real world story with flights of fancy. But, it’s not apparent that Inarritu knows the difference or how to pull back. You could trim this film by forty minutes and make the more unbelievable scenes believable. Cut the crazy stuff or at least tone it back. Make the bear fight shorter. Make your hero a little more heroic and less of a wimp. The Dakota wilderness in the early 18th century is no place for milquetoasts. They’d be in New York City reading poetry. Grade: C

Channeling Jack Nicholson in the tall tale, "The Revenant."

Channeling Jack Nicholson in the tall tale, “The Revenant.”