By Jack Gradis (Gresham, Oregon)
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The Revenant stars Leonardo DiCaprio and Tom Hardy. Director Alejandro G. Iñárritu, coming of the celebrated Oscar winner Birdman, delivers another visually stunning yet pretentious piece of cinema. The Revenant is a treat to the eyes, and both DiCaprio and Hardy are solid. However it is held back by Iñárritu’s insistence on metaphor packed storytelling and a lack of overall realism or sense of purpose.

Anyone with any knowledge of film would tell you DiCaprio is a slam dunk for this year’s best actor at The Academy Awards. Was he good? Yes. Should he win? No, and I’m not even sure he should have been nominated. He has some good grunting and crawling scenes, I’ll give him that. But to me, it takes more than rolling around in the snow and getting beat up a lot to be considered a great performance.

Hardy on the other hand, is truly great in his role. His character made the logical decisions in the film, and his sense of desperation and survival is portrayed perfectly by Hardy, who had quite a year on the big screen. He starred in the best action film of the year, Mad Max: Fury Road, and was stellar in the under rated gangster biopic, Legend. The character of John Fitzgerald was given more layers than any other character in the film, and Hardy’s mumbling worked fantastically with who the character was.

There’s no twists or stunners in The Revenant’s plot, it’s just pure and dirty revenge. That could work, but with the films lengthy run time, somewhere in the middle the film felt like it lost its purpose. The passion and desperation Iñárritu and DiCaprio work so hard to build slowly disappears, until it is thrown back at you in the final 30 minutes. There are lots of symbolic visuals and characters along the way, and a few daydreams to remind us why this journey is even taking place. The word boring is too harsh and unfair to toss around, because the visuals keep you interested. But the film definitely drags, and if I were to watch it again, I would skip through a good chunk of the middle part of the film.

The bear scene has garnered a lot of attention, and it truly is great. Not for a second did I believe a real bear was ripping Leo to death, but it’s still impressive. That coupled with the opening raid sequence, shot in one take, made for a brilliant set up. I’m already tired of Iñárritu’s one take technique, but it worked masterfully during the action sequences this film provides.

As far as finales go, The Revenant delivers one of the best ending sequences in film of the year, but also offers up a lackluster conclusion to our main characters story. The final act is brutal and gorgeously shot, providing further evidence Iñárritu would be my favorite cinematographer or visual effects man of all-time if he gave directing a break. The wrap up to our main characters story once again kills the overall purpose to this films existence. The whole journey we just watched DiCaprio go through feels wasted, and I left feeling unsatisfied and needing a sense of closure with the character.

Overall, The Revenant may well be the best looking film of the year. Hardy is terrific, and Leo is fine and gives it his all. Iñárritu is still a hot-and-cold director for me, excelling in the visual department but faltering in terms of telling a complete story. The film lacks a sense of overall purpose, and for having such an over long running time, the ending resolution feels hollow and unjust. It’s watchable, and should be seen for the visual mastery. Just not deserving of film of the year in my book.

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