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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Slow West

16 year old Scottish boy Jay Cavendish (Kodi Smit-McPhee) decides to travel to Colorado in 19th century America to look for his love, Rose Ross (Caren Pistorious). We pick up the journey shortly after he arrives on the East Coast and realise right away how out of his depth he is. As he gets caught up in a battle between a couple of groups of men, bounty hunter Silas Selleck (Michael Fassbender) fortunately comes to his rescue and Jay gives him all of his money to offer him protection along his journey.

And their journey is stylish, occasionally brutal, occasionally funny and always interesting. There are lots of diversions and incidences en-route and it has a very compelling relationship between Jay and Silas at it’s core, with particularly fine performances from Kodi Smit-McPhe and the always great Michael Fassbender.

It’s described as a western, but for all the occasionally violent moments it’s not got the macho feel of a typical western, it’s much more playful and bizarre than the typical film of ponderous posturing and it’s visually a joy. It’s also a snappy 84 minutes.

It’s an enjoyable and confident film and particularly promising as hopefully the first of many films from first time director John Maclean.

4 on 5

Info
Director: John Maclean
Starring: Michael Fassbender, Kodi Smit-McPhe, Caren Pistorious, Ben Mendleson
UK Release: 26 June 2015