The Revenant

“A person who has returned, especially supposedly from the dead” is what it said when I looked up revenant in the dictionary (educational this film going lark!).

In 1823, a group of fur-trappers led by an apparently British General in the land of new frontiersman USA are out in the unsettled wilderness woodlands collecting pelts (“the skin of an animal with the fur, hair or wool still on it.” Dictionary coming in handy again!). They are besieged by a group of Native Americans in a great immersive opening battle reminiscent of ‘Saving Private Ryan’ and only a few men manage to escape on a boat. One of them is Hugh Glass (Leonardo DiCaprio) and his half-native son. Another of the group John Fitzgerald (Tom Hardy) is suspicious of Glass and his son. The group dynamics are not good and before long disaster strikes when Glass is badly attacked by a bear.

That bear sequence is another technically impressive one, with Leonardo being flung all over the place. I’d love to see some of the footage before they airbrushed out the crew throwing him around and drew the bear in!

Leonardo has spoken about how the movie means a lot to him in terms of representing and highlighting the destruction of indigenous landscapes and peoples around the world, not just at the time when the native American people were clashing with the expanding capitalism to the west, but in the present day too. It does have that as a backdrop, but the meat on the bones of the film is a survival and revenge story.

Leonardo certainly plays the character of Glass with passion and plenty of conviction and combined with the landscapes and filters the film does actually make you feel cold. Unfortunately Tom Hardy’s character is mumbling and heavily-accented to the point where you miss most of his lines.

Part way through I was reminded of the excellent ‘Touching The Void’, the documentary film about a stranded man’s attempt to make it back to camp against all the odds, but the difference here is that getting back to camp doesn’t provide any closure as it would only be a step on the journey of revenge, revenge which does seem to falter near the end of the film.

A cinematic experience, but I didn’t think that the thin plot could quite sustain the 2 1/2 hours.

3 on 5

Info
Director: Alejandro Iñárritu
Starring: Leonardo DiCaprio, Tom Hardy, Domhnall Gleeson, Will Poulter, Forest Goodluck, Grace Dove UK Release: 15th January 2016

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The Wolf Of Wall Street

The film starts with a short montage giving a taster of the life of excesses, luxuries, sex and drugs of stockbroker Jordan Belfort (played brilliantly by Leonardo DiCaprio). We then wind back to him starting out on Wall Street as a trainee for an established firm. What he experienced in that first day shapes the rest of his entire career. He loves the buzz of the office, the disrespectful and foul-mouthed culture, and when his boss meets him for lunch he is eager to be guided: “Move the money from your client’s pocket into your pocket”. He takes Jordan’s desire for wealth, points him I’m the right direction and gives him a kick up the ass.

However, shortly afterwards there is a stock market crash and Jordan finds himself jobless almost before his career has started. He manages to find a job for a small firm selling penny stocks, taking advantage of the desperate and making a 50% cut. His gift of the gab salesmanship has the office enthralled from the first day and Jordan is on the rise again, shortly setting up his own firm with his new right hand man Donnie (also excellently played by Jonah Hill) and a band of old mates who he can mould into his form, speaking from the office floor to his acolytes into a microphone with the crazed fever of a cult preacher. It is this arc that sustains most of the film’s running time.

Along the way Jordan hires his father, Mad Max, to stifle the worst of his excesses and that of the management team, but this is a futile role as the parties, drugs, prostitutes and spending goes through the roof. He is introduced to us in a hilarious scene at home in just one of the very funny moments in the film. It has a fast-paced, dynamic, darkly comic, sometimes slapstick feel as the protagonists lurch from one caper to the next. It’s not a film to watch with your parents though – swearing, naked flesh, drug taking in every scene – and it does lack strong female representation (perhaps a little inevitably as it is based on the true story of a male stockbroker in the late 80s) but Margot Robbie and Joanna Lumley do play female characters who have strength and self respect.

Entirely without morals, Jordan is only motivated by greed and the adulation of his workers and the interesting thing is that there is no progression in his character at all from the moment he picks up the phone at his first job to the last shot of the film. He is a train wreck waiting to happen for a long time, but he can’t resist standing on top of the carriage and whooping as it flies along the tracks. The only person who appears to have a moment of self-reflection (and regret almost) is the FBI agent investigating Jordan after the whole affair is over.

Rather than being a critique or glamorisation of Jordan’s life, it is more a comment on the industry and society that is allowing this sort of situation to occur, but it’s a fun ride!

4 on 5

Info

Director: Martin Scorsese
Starring: Leonardo DiCaprio, Jonah Hill, Margot Robbie, Matthew McConaughey, Kyle Chandler, Rob Reiner, Jon Bernthal, Jon Favreau, Jean Dujardin, Joanna Lumley
UK Release: 17th January 2014

Inception

[Poster]

Christopher Nolan came up with the story for this film a while ago, but wanted to get a couple of big films under his belt before tackling it. Batman Begins (okay) and Batman – The Dark Knight (good, but one scene too long and with a grating voice) fit the bill there, so here we have it. He’s also directed Memento (excellent) and Insomnia (meh…).

Leonardo DiCaprio is great as the star of the film which deals with infiltrating people’s dreams – I’ll try not to spoil it by saying any more. From the word go it starts off at a frenetic pace, almost like a resume montage backstory, screaming ‘Come on! Keep up!’ at you as the concepts take root in your brain. This pace is kept up for virtually the entire film, helped massively by the score by Hans Zimmer which is brilliant. The film has a great look about it too, which I am sure is largely thanks to long-time collaborating cinematographer Wally Pfister.

The environment is coherent and generally robust and easy to follow (with forgivable exposition at some times and only the ‘limbo’ had me scratching my head a little – I don’t think I’m spoiling the film by saying that!). I also thought that it drops in terminology of the new world with the confidence of a Philip K Dick story, perhaps his work was an inspiration to Nolan. The plot mechanisms and stakes are perhaps not quite on the level of the environment and the present on reflection, at least for the rest of the gang.

It’s always difficult to keep up the interest in an action film. More often than not they end up with a stupid dull final extravagant setpiece and you disengage a bit amongst all the shooting, but I don’t think that’s true here.

All in all a great ‘wow’ film and a natural successor to The Matrix.

4 on 5

Written, Produced and Directed by : Christopher Nolan
Starring: Leonardo DiCaprio, Ken Watanabe, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Marion Cotillard, Ellen Page, Tom Hardy, Cillian Murphy
UK Release: 16th July 2010