Review: The Revenant

revenant

DIR: Alejandro González Iñárritu • WRI: Mark L. Smith, Alejandro González Iñárritu • PRO: Steve Golin, Alejandro González Iñárritu, David Kanter, Arnon Milchan, Mary Parent, Keith Redmon, James W. Skotchdopole • DOP: Emmanuel Lubezki • ED: Stephen Mirrione • DES: Jack Fisk • MUS: Carsten Nicolai, Ryuichi Sakamoto • CAST: Tom Hardy, Leonardo DiCaprio, Domhnall Gleeson

 

In 1823, at the edge of the new world, frontiersman Hugh Glass (Leonardo DiCaprio) swears vengeance when one of the men of the hunting party he’d been tasked to protect abandons him alive but mortally wounded after surviving a brutal bear attack. If revenge is a dish best served cold, Alejandro G. Iñárritu offers one better, serving up a frost-ridden western that only copious amounts of blood and testosterone can cool in a riotous and riveting ode to survival.

In the uncharted wilderness of the Americas an expedition of fur traders and trappers is cut short when a tribe of Native Indians ambush their camp to plunder their precious pelts. A melee of arrows, tomahawks and bullets fly as a dizzying long take follows the carnage from foot and across horseback to capture every hack and slash in grisly detail. The up-close and personal approach of unbroken shots provides for a shell-shocking opener and a spectacular warning of the dread ahead.

The weary band of survivors escape across the water by boat but the hot-headed, half-scalped Fitzgerald (Tom Hardy) is fast to point a finger at Glass and son Hawk (Forrest Goodluck) for failing to pre-empt the attack, sowing seeds of discord among the men. Glass remains focused and resolute, despite the doubt cast upon his abilities as a man and a father. It reveals his virtue as a character that will avoid a fight if and when he can with the gauntlet of punishment ahead laying credence to the theme that survival is a requisite of one’s strength of mind and spirit as much as body. Even when Glass is reduced to a bloody pulp after several rounds of merciless mauling by an angry mother bear, in another unrelenting long shot, his will to survive is his greatest weapon (with a little help from a well-aimed bullet and his trusty bowie knife). It betters the beast and even when left for dead drags him back to the land of the living like some vengeful ghost with unfinished business.

Henceforth, it’s a down and dirty ride fuelled by blood, sweat and tears both in front and behind the camera as Iñárritu and co. reportedly tackled harsh conditions across perilous locations, relying upon natural light alone to capture the myth and the mayhem. DiCaprio triumphs in an absorbing to-hell-and-back-again performance that may just snag that elusive Oscar. The supporting players rise to the challenge and excel in their own right, with Domhnall Glesson’s duty-bound Captain Henry and Will Poulter’s impressionable and conscience heavy Bridger adding leverage to the one-man show. The unscrupulous Fitzgerald is embodied by another wide-eyed and wild Hardy performance but the beast is cleverly kept at bay before the inevitable showdown.

At times, Emmanuel Lubezki’s cinematography recalls the majestic vision of a Terrance Malick film (lessons learnt on The New World no doubt), such as in the slow track over a waterlogged forest as Glass and Hawk creep, rifles drawn, towards drinking elk. Mother Nature is a force to be reckoned with in The Revenant, a character of its own that adds to the formidable level of realism, and the camera showcases its beauty and its brutality in equal measure. The whispery voice-over of Glass’s wife cheering him on in spirit owes again to the aforementioned oeuvre and excels in complementing Ryuichi Sakamoto and Alva Noto’s hauntingly alluring score.

Iñárritu’s Oscar follow-up is a punishing watch that pays off with captivating visuals of realistic action and adventure. The trek may tire some but fortune favours the bold after all.

 

Anthony Assad

16
156 minutes (See IFCO for details)

The Revenant is released 15th January 2016

The Revenant – Official Website

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Cannes Diary: Day 1

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David Neary brushes shoulders with the stars and an umbrella salesman at Cannes.

It was a damp start to the 66th Cannes Film Festival  the deluge began just as the stars began to walk the red carpet into the Grand Théâtre Lumière in the Palais des Festivals.

But it had been a bright, if cloudy day up to that point; the town was busy with the arrivals of film industry professionals, up-and-coming filmmakers, over-enthusiastic cinephiles and journalists from all corners and all media.

Navigating the Palais, an unending stream of free espresso as my only fuel,  I found myself waiting with the photographers and TV cameras outside the Great Gatsby press conference – which was already full to the brim inside. The slightest flicker of a celebrity approaching and several score cameras leapt into the air like the alert heads of meerkats when a predator is suspected to be approaching. Carey Mulligan walked by – radiant, in couturest of black outfits – and I thought for a moment I might faint from her beauty; actually the press corps have been waiting so long that the heat their bodies is emitting is now overwhelming. As Leonardo DiCaprio passed by, I slipped out of the crowd before I was crushed to death by a flurry of camera bags and tripods.

Eager not to miss Gatsby, lest I not have anything to talk about to anyone for the rest of the Festival, I placed myself at the top of the queue for the afternoon press screening. The tiered system of press passes meant that despite my punctuality a few hundred more premiere journos got let in ahead of me. I whiled away the time planning my schedule for the coming days and chuckling at the solitary brown pigeon strutting his stuff on the red carpet, and the burly security type singularly failing to scare it off.

The Great Gatsby, the opening film of the festival, is an attractive if soulless venture that eschews much of the subtlety of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s novel in order to focus almost solely on the central love affair, creating a hybrid of Gatsby and the director Baz Luhrmann’s Moulin Rouge! A short duration into the film I had to change my 3D glasses, which were malfunctioning and distorting the images. The Parisienne to my right texted throughout the film. Remember folks, if it can happen at a screening in Cannes, it can happen anywhere!

The press screenings over, the jury could begin to assemble for the Opening Ceremony. Steven Spielberg, head of the jury this year, walked past sporting the most stylish flatcap the movie industry may have ever seen. In honour of his presence, Jaws is being screened at the open-air Cinéma de la Plage next week, and the theme music from Jurassic Park can be heard playing in the men’s room. The press attempted to bait the jury on a variety of issues, including Spielberg and fellow jury member Ang Lee’s “rivalry” since Lee took home the Best Director Oscar for Life of Pi over Spielberg for Lincoln, but the jury members were putting up a unified front. Christoph Waltz seemed delighted with all the attention. As the rains began to fall and the wind began to whip them up, Nicole Kidman looked less than comfortable on the red carpet, clinging to her umbrella and joking with reporters that she felt she might blow away like Mary Poppins. It remains to be seen what they thought of Luhrmann’s film.

On the other side of the Palais, arrogant and Irish, I queued in the now undeniably lashing rain for the press screening of Mexican drama Heli, while rebuffing the offers of quick-witted salesmen trying to pass me on overpriced umbrellas. In retrospect I should have coughed up.

Heli, from Mexican director Amat Escalante, whose film Sangre screened at Cannes out of competition in 2005, is a superb work. Hard-hitting from its grim opening shot and the barbaric conclusion to its first scene, it is also often witty and tender. But as a story about a drug deal gone bad in a rural town, there is not much room for happiness, and Heli features some truly brutal scenes of violence and torture. Twice the audience unleashed gasps of horror, which the film earned with moments of despicable, believable cruelty.

Outside again, and the attendees of the Gatsby premiere looked bedraggled in their waterlogged gowns and tuxes; the rain thundering down now. This is the price you pay to look fabulous in a Mediterranean town still suffering the unpredictable weather of late spring.

Hopefully the rain is the only washout that will hit Cannes this year. But there’s still plenty of time yet for something else to go wrong…

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Cinema Review: Django Unchained

 

DIR/WRI: Quentin Tarantino • PRO: Reginald Hudlin, Pilar Savone, Stacey Sher • DOP: Robert Richardson • ED: Fred Raskin • DES: J. Michael Riva • CAST: Jamie Foxx, Christoph Waltz, Leonardo DiCaprio, Kerry Washington
 

The last few years have seen Tarantino’s star wane – his name, once a byword for a kind of hyperactive cinema offering snappy dialogue and copious un-PC violence had curdled audience enthusiasm to boredom as he seemed incapable of evolution.  While his naughties’ output occasionally hinted at an old genius, most particularly with Inglourious Basterds, it has taken a film like Django Unchained to collate his messy strands of filmmaking back into an entertaining movie.  Think Blazing Saddles meets Mickey and Mallory!

Django Unchained hits all the right notes for a Tarantino fan – from the soundtrack and dialogue to the schlock violence and derision, he conjures a reimagining of history so brutal and entertaining that the long running time practically flies by.  There are faults, to be sure – indeed, even fans of Tarantino will sigh as his megalomania takes over from time to time, shoe-horning his ego, and himself, into unrelated scenes.  And these faults do trip up an otherwise seamless flow, leaving plenty of room for after-film arguments across pints or coffee…which is exactly what a non-film-schooled director would want from his audience.  Of course, then there is the racism – Tarantino has been building towards a film like this his entire cinematic career, from using Samuel L. Jackson as a sort of muse to his own embarrassing efforts at ‘gangsta’ talk.  You can’t help but feel that he’s getting extreme pleasure from the artistic licence afforded him by setting his movie pre-Civil War, and making his hero a freed slave.  As a revisionist Western it has holes on a par with Wild Wild West (please – no more cowboy ray-bans!), but fans of Tarantino will know that his coolness permeates even to the past.  And copious use of the ‘n’ word aside, this reimagining of racial warfare in the Deep South manages what Basterds did not in creating a wholly blasphemous take on history that actually rings (somewhat) true.  More than that, since we now have Christoph Waltz on our side, we can finally cheer the good guys with undivided gusto.

The casting is, of course, the real revelation.  Waltz takes Tarantino’s sometimes mangled use of language and ups the ante on its coolness – nobody else could deliver his words with such panache and class.  His interpretation of a bounty hunter caught between common humanity and simple moneymaking is by turns hilarious and excessive, but always mesmerising.  The usually unlikeable Jamie Foxx takes the melodramatic title role of Django, and succeeds in giving life to Tarantino’s immense creation.  Foxx excels by not taking himself too seriously, and the ridiculous scenarios and fantastical lines flow much more smoothly for having no thespian illusions blocking their way.  Along with Waltz, the big talking point has been Leonardo DiCaprio’s portrayal of plantation owner and all-round bastard, Calvin J. Candie – and oh does he fill that role with relish!  His over-the-top accent and ridiculous cruelty anchor the movie in its time – pre-Civil War Southern USA, where white men ruled with an iron fist.  Ably helped by his ruthless slave confidant Stephen (Jackson), their interplay is so powerfully malicious and hyperbolic that only Django’s dramatic drive for both his freedom and his wife can balance their scene-stealing machinations.

The running time does hint at Tarantino’s inability to find fault with any of his creations – he can rarely bear to leave anything on the cutting room floor, and there are certainly scenes that could have benefited from the chop.  Despite its flaws, though, Django has so many parts that offer pure entertainment that – as long as you don’t take it too seriously – it’s nearly impossible not to be invested in some way.  The bottom line is that while it is politically-incorrect, facetious, ridiculous and crazy, it is also Tarantino at his best – kinetic, irreverent and downright entertaining!

Sarah Griffin

Rated 18 (see IFCO website for details)

165 mins

Django Unchained is released on 17th January 2013

Django Unchained – Official Website

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v-4r_B8hY_I

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