‘The Revenant’ review: Torturous

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The Revenant review: Alejandro González Iñárritu directs Leonardo DiCaprio on the set of The Revenant
Alejandro González Iñárritu directs Leonardo DiCaprio on the set of The Revenant

The Revenant review in a nutshell

A torture to sit through, so I suggest you don’t. If you really want to watch Leo foaming and spitting at the mouth, you can do that in The Wolf of Wall Street. And instead of watching Tom Hardy play the nastiest guy alive for whom you look at and think there’s no hope for humanity, let him regain your hope for humanity in Mad Max: Fury Road.

Hell, if you just want to watch Leo and Tom Hardy in a movie together, Inception is on Netflix.

Click here to jump to the bottom to find out where to watch The Revenant. (But do you really want to?)

Movie synopsis

A tale of revenge and betrayal in the early 1800s. Frontiersman Hugh Glass (Leonardo DiCaprio) is betrayed and left for dead by scoundrel John Fitzgerald (Tom Hardy) after he’s mauled by a bear. He claws his way out of death and across a frozen hellscape to take revenge. Supposedly based on a true story, but the true story is apparently far weirder than the movie portrays. (You should read the true story by the way. It’s more enjoyable than watching the movie.)

The Revenant movie review (with some spoilers)

I was talking to my colleagues the other day, and the topic got around to how they would never walk out of a movie halfway, no matter how much they dislike it, because they felt that it was just so rude and disrespectful (to the filmmakers and their efforts in making the film, I suppose). And it reminded me of The Revenant. Because I absolutely hated it.

I did not walk out of that movie. But the moment the screen turned black and the credits were about to start rolling, I literally jumped out of my seat and FLED the theatre — something I’ve never done before for any movie ever, or since. Not for the stupid movies that I hated and was forced to watch because my friends insisted on watching them (I’m looking at you, You Don’t Mess with the Zohan and Superhero Movie). Not even when I had a last train to catch. But The Revenant was such a special snowflake that I just couldn’t stand to be in that theatre for a single second more.

Cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki and Forrest Goodluck behind the scenes of The Revenant
Cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki and Forrest Goodluck behind the scenes of The Revenant

First, a primer: The Revenant is the story of a frontiersman in the 1820s called Hugh Glass (played by Leonardo DiCaprio), who was mauled by a bear and left for dead by members of his own hunting team, especially after a scoundrel called John Fitzgerald (Tom Hardy) deceives everyone into thinking that he’s dead because Fitzgerald finds Glass too much of a burden to carry home. He kills Glass’ half-Native American son, Hawk (Forrest Goodluck), who most certainly was against the plan to leave his father behind, and terrorises a younger boy called Bridger (Will Poulter), who had also been tasked with carrying Glass home slowly as the rest continued their expedition, into corroborating the lie, though Bridger didn’t know Fitzgerald killed Hawk until much later. Miraculously, Hugh Glass survives, and fueled by grief and revenge, he sets off home through the bleak wilderness to hunt down the murderer and betrayer.

Leonardo DiCaprio as Hugh Glass and Forrest Goodluck as his son Hawk
Leo as Hugh Glass and Forrest Goodluck as his son Hawk in The Revenant

Unlike Zohan and Superhero Movie, I wasn’t forced to watch The Revenant. In fact, I suggested watching it, because there was so much buzz surrounding it back then as an Oscar frontrunner. But when I got out of the theatre, it left such an odious taste in my mouth that if it had won Best Picture, I would have lost my respect for the people who make up the Academy. (Thankfully, it didn’t!)

It was torturous to sit through the 2h and 36 freaking mins(!) of the pretentious hallucinatory filter and the complete and total misery of the film. Tom Hardy’s character is the nastiest I’ve ever seen, and nothing good seems to befall even “good” characters. This is the sort of film that makes you question if it isn’t better for mankind to be annihilated by an asteroid hitting the earth, because what even is the point of living and suffering on? As much torture as Hugh Glass suffers through the film — and as the cast and crew did under horrible shooting conditions that caused several to quit and the film budget to balloon — it was just as torturous to sit through. If I hadn’t watched this film in the cinema but at home, I would have turned it off after the first half hour and never gone back to it again.

Will Poulter as Bridger and Tom Hardy as the scoundrel John Fitzgerald in The Revenant
Will Poulter as Bridger and Tom Hardy as the scoundrel John Fitzgerald in The Revenant

I mean, there’re elements of it that I understand as being award worthy. The scenes were filmed in such a loopy yet continuous way that made me wonder where exactly the camera was and how did it zigzag around the actors to give us what we saw. They’re beautiful in the way nature documentaries are — remarkable as the cinematographer only shot using natural light, which is an extremely difficult feat to pull off. But it also gives the film a hallucinatory effect which is so deliberate that it feels pretentious.

The director wouldn’t be totally unjustified in getting another Best Director statuette (his first was for Birdman) just for attempting to corral this picture together — though I would resent the hell out of it, cause it isn’t a great film. (And Alejandro González Iñárritu did win Best Director, even though I feel George Miller deserved it more for Mad Max: Fury Road. ?) Leo acted his heart out, and I’m glad he won Best Actor, if only to end his search for an Oscar. But if I wanted to watch him foaming and spitting at the mouth, I would rewatch The Wolf of Wall Street, where he looked like he had way more fun doing than this horrible movie.

Leo foaming and spitting his way into a Best Actor Oscar
Leo foaming and spitting his way into a Best Actor Oscar

I don’t know why people liked The Revenant. It’s just unrelenting misery. A tale of the extremes man can be put to to survive, and for revenge.

Did I mention that their accents are practically impossible to understand? But since I didn’t enjoy myself very much, I stopped caring about knowing what they were saying. I just couldn’t wait for the movie to end — and when it did, I was so relieved I would never have to suffer through it again.

Where to watch The Revenant

Streaming services: The Revenant is on Netflix Singapore, but not on Netflix US, Amazon Prime Video or Hulu.

Rent/Buy: Get it on iTunes, Amazon, Vudu, FandangoNOW, Microsoft, Redbox

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