I was sucked into watching this film purely because of Leonardo DiCaprio’s Oscar victory. Initially, I didn’t feel the need to check the film length because it is 2016 and all good films are about 2 hours long. Right? Unfortunately, this film was 2.5 hours long and felt even longer.
DiCaprio was nearly brilliant, dragging himself (literally) through scene after scene. Eating actual meat despite being a vegetarian. He really didn’t have to act much, he just went through what the character went through. Unfortunately, much of the film’s plot could have been avoided by simple bear safety training. There are a few other problems that I found with the film; the length, the unyielding establishing shots, the breathing, and completely unrealistic scenarios for DiCaprio’s character, Hugh Glass, to survive.
The length of the film was an issue for me. The story could have been told in better detail with more focus on the story in a shorter period of time. Instead of having a human story, the movie consists of simply watching an actor crawling through a performance while staring into the middle distance and whispering in Pawnee while being subtitled.
The film’s length was primarily due to long establishing shots that began every scene in the film. While beautiful, there was two minutes of establishing footage just to set the scene for DiCaprio crawling around in the woods. After about 10 minutes of these shots, I needed more story to connect them. This was not needed and considerably effected the length of the film.
Another element in the film that was problematic was the long loud breathing tracks that occurred throughout many of the establishing shots. In the beginning of the film, Hugh Glass says to his son, “As long as you can still grab a breath, you fight.” This line caused the next two hours of film to be accompanied by loud breathing. This track was layered over many of the long establishing shots and became boring quickly.
Finally, the arduous journey that this film follows was, at times, unbelievable. Riding a horse off a 30 foot ravine into a tree is not survivable even if he hadn’t been attacked by a bear, full stop. In another scene, Glass is pulling himself through the woods and reaches the top on a cliff. At the base of the cliff, there is a river. The film simply cuts to Glass at the bottom of the cliff drinking water. How did he get down there? He was barely moving, but somehow he gets down a sheer cliff face to drink the water.
While I have many issues with this film, the cinematography was stunning. Although the establishing shots were tedious at best, they were stunningly beautiful. The attention to detail seemed to consume this film and was impressive, but overwhelming. Overall, The Revenant was trying very hard, and its efforts painfully showed. As a college art project, this would have been a strong A+, but as a film this was a weak C+.