Wednesday, 23 December 2015


The Revenant is a great film that needs so deeply to be a great film that it ultimately ends up rather far short of greatness. It's an emulation, an amalgamation, an artful pastiche of artistry that trips over itself trying. So much effort has been put into this film that one feels there's very little effort left for the audience, very little to latch onto and form our own personal, subjective connection with. Be Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu's brushstrokes broad or fine (or even his own, an uncommon in his career), they're always much too clear to behold; how can a viewer feel engaged with what they're viewing when their synapses are being lit up not by themselves but by the hands of the filmmaker, no matter how masterful their touch? The Revenant is a collage, largely of the works of Terrence Malick, but it's a beautiful collage, full of dynamic sequences that ought to be more touching, more thrilling, more awe-inspiring than they are. It's marvellously physical and sensual - edited as though it were a series of desperate gasps and held breaths, the sound design a delicious symphony of squelches and guttural groans. But to what effect? Gonzalez Inarritu can't resist but draw one's attention to the technique on display, and while it's easy to comprehend why, it's not quite excusable. It also distracts from what is an essentially human story, though Leonardo DiCaprio's performance is equally calculated - a depiction of determination, with none of the soul nor purpose behind this outrageous true story evident in what he contributes. And the film's innate insensitivity is brought forth most clearly of all (tellingly, this is only clear if you're attuned to it, given the tired attempts at excusing it away) in The Revenant's treatment of its native characters - not so much in their story, but in its subordination to the story of yet another poor white man.