Where You’ve Seen Them Before: The Revenant

Posted on January 8, 2016 at 3:56 pm

Director Alejandro González Iñárritu and his cast spent months in remote, frozen locations in Ontario, standing in for the frontier of the United States in the early 1800’s. Underneath the beards and fur, you’ve seen many of the actors before.

Leonardo diCaprio is one of the world’s biggest stars, appearing in “The Wolf of Wall Street,” “Titanic,” “The Departed,” and “Inception.” He’s been acting since he was very young, with an Oscar nomination for his first significant film role as a developmentally disabled boy in “What’s Eating Gilbert Grape?” opposite Johnny Depp.

Tom Hardy played Bane (behind an oxygen mask) in “The Dark Knight Rises” and the title character in “Mad Max: Fury Road” (much of it behind a mask in that one, too). He also played both of the Kray brothers in last year’s “Legend” and spent an entire film in the driver’s seat in “Locke.” Be sure to see his neglected gem of a performance in “Warrior,” as an MMA fighter in a winner-take-all battle with his estranged brother (Joel Edgerton).

Domhnall Gleeson has had a busy year. You can currently see him as General Hux in “Star Wars: The Force Awakens,” with his “Ex Machina” co-star Oscar Isaac and in “Brooklyn” with Saoirse Ronan, for once, both of them getting to use their real Irish accents.

Will Poulter played a young filmmaker in “Son of Rambow.”

And he was very funny in “We’re the Millers.”

Related Tags:


Actors Where You’ve Seen Them Before

The Revenant

Posted on January 7, 2016 at 5:35 pm

Lowest Recommended Age: Mature High Schooler
MPAA Rating: Rated R for strong frontier combat and violence including gory images, a sexual assault, language and brief nudity
Profanity: Some strong and racist language
Alcohol/ Drugs: Drinking
Violence/ Scariness: Intense, graphic, and disturbing violence including arrows, knives, guns, sexual assault and prolonged animal attack
Diversity Issues: A theme of the movie
Date Released to Theaters: January 8, 2016
Date Released to DVD: April 18, 2016
Amazon.com ASIN: B01AB0DX2K
Copyright 20th Century Fox 2015
Copyright 20th Century Fox 2015

In the 1820’s, ladies of fashion liked fur trim. And, true then as now, men like money. So frontiersmen went on trapping expeditions into the wilderness of the young country of the United States of America (played here by British Columbia and Alberta, Canada). The rewards for bringing back fur pelts are significant. The risks, including attack by the Arikara Indians, are dire.

A frontiersman named Hugh Glass was the guide for one of these expeditions. According to lore, he was savagely attacked by a bear and left to die by his companions, but survived and made it back over 250 miles to the nearest fort, intent on revenge. The story has been told — and embroidered and adapted — over the years, reflecting each era’s perspective and concerns. This version is based on the novel by US Trade Michael Punke (who, as Deputy US Trade representative and Ambassador to the World Trade Organization is restricted from promoting the film). As co-written and directed by “Birdman’s” Alejandro González Iñárritu it is a story of resolve. As often with Westerns, it is a way to explore the fundamental contradictions of the American spirit: determination, vision, courage, but sometimes without any regard for the damage they can cause.

Both Iñárritu and his Director of Photography Emmanuel Lubezki won Oscars for this film. They filmed only in available light, meaning they had to limit themselves to just moments of filming each day. As the director told Deadline, they created “little-by-little jewel moments; that’s the way I designed the production…But those locations are so gorgeous and so powerful, they look like they have never been touched by a human being, and that’s what I needed.” They filmed under conditions so arduous that Will Poulter, who plays real-life frontiersman/trapper Jim Bridger, told me that no acting was necessary to show that they were freezing and exhausted. The bear is CGI (and the bear attack is truly horrifying), but almost everything else was really there and really happening, including diCaprio’s hacking coughs (he had the flu).

The cinematography is the most stunning I have ever seen, perfectly focussed throughout the depth of field, even across endless vistas. Second only to the visuals is the movie’s real theme, not revenge or even will, but law.

When there is no structure, no church, no police, courts, or jail, no lawmakers, no appeals, how do you decide who is in charge and what to do? The film’s most fascinating moments are the ones where we see characters across the continuum on those questions, with one in particular who is still deciding where he fits in, decide what they should do, what they must do. In an early scene, the Indians attack and the frontiersmen’s response is: pelts payload first, and every man for himself second. Wounded men are left behind without a second’s hesitation.

But when Glass (Oscar-winner Leonardo DiCaprio) is critically wounded in the middle of nowhere, Captain Henry, the leader of the expedition (Domhnall Gleeson) is certain what he is owed. Because he has been an essential and honorable part of their expedition (and, unstated but evident, because no one is shooting arrows at them at the moment), he decides two men will be left behind to care for him until he dies and then give him some semblance of a Christian burial. They are John Fitzgerald (Tom Hardy) and Bridger (17 years old at the time). Glass has a teenage son (Forrest Goodluck), from his marriage to a Native American woman who was killed, and he stays with his father as well.

But Fitzgerald becomes impatient and commits a terrible act of cruelty while Bridger is away from the campsite, then lies to him about what happened. Glass is left for dead. As Glass, Fitzgerald, Henry, and Bridger deal with the consequences of these actions, we see the beginnings of a society and culture. Some day, the pristine landscapes explored by Glass and Bridger would be covered with roads and cities and we will try to re-create them by filming in other countries to show us what we were. But the story of the struggle for justice, always the great work of this country, is a story we will keep telling forever.

Parents should know that this film includes extremely graphic and disturbing human and animal violence with many explicit and disturbing images of dead bodies and wounds, murder of family members, sexual assault, brief nudity, some strong language, and racism.

Family discussion: How many different views about law and morality do you see among the characters? What should the group have done with a severely injured member?

If you like this, try: “Touching the Void,” a documentary about an extraordinary story of survival in the wilderness

Related Tags:


Based on a book Based on a true story Drama DVD/Blu-Ray Pick of the Week Epic/Historical Western

Opening This Week: Anomalisa and The Revenant

Posted on January 4, 2016 at 3:49 pm

Copyright 2015 20th Century Fox
Copyright 2015 20th Century Fox
There were no major national releases in movie theaters last week, and this week’s releases are not entirely “new” — their titles may be familiar from critics’ end of year top ten lists. Both had “qualifying” limited releases so they can be considered for Golden Globes, Oscars, and Broadcast Film Critics awards. But both will now be available to audiences across the country for the first time.

“The Revenant” stars Leonardo diCaprio and Tom Hardy in a fact-based story of survival and revenge in the American frontier of the 1830’s. It is directed and co-written by “Birdman’s” Alejandro González Iñárritu, with astonishing cinematography by Emmanuel Lubezki. DiCaprio plays a trapper/guide left for dead after he is ravaged by a bear. He makes it back to camp in an extraordinary act of determination and courage. “Revenant” means ghost or spirit of someone who has died.

“Anomalisa” Charlie Kaufman (“Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind,” “Being John Malkovich”) wrote and co-directed a stop-motion animated story of loneliness, isolation, and the competing urges for and against true intimacy. The title is a portmanteau (combination of two words) — Lisa is a character voiced by Jennifer Jason Leigh whose unique characteristics (possibly temporary) make her an anomaly. Like all of Kaufman’s work, it is challenging, imaginative, and darkly funny. Here animator Carol Koch talks about creating the stop-motion characters.

Related Tags:


Opening This Week

Ann Hornaday on Watching Ultra-Violence

Posted on December 28, 2015 at 3:58 pm

Washington Post critic Ann Hornaday has a thoughtful piece about the violence in two end-of-the-year western-style frontier stories, “The Revenant,” from the director of last year’s Best Picture “Birdman,” Alejandro González Iñárritu and Quentin Tarantino’s “The Hateful Eight.”

Both “The Hateful Eight” and “The Revenant,” which arrive in theaters over the next two weeks, make promiscuous use of bodies in pain. Directed by Quentin Tarantino and Alejandro González Iñárritu, respectively, both films are set against the pitiless, snowy backdrop of the 19th-century American West. And both traffic in lingering wide-screen images of savage brutality and mortification, as their protagonists claw, fight, shoot and stab their way to preserving their lives… oth films are set against the pitiless, snowy backdrop of the 19th-century American West. And both traffic in lingering wide-screen images of savage brutality and mortification, as their protagonists claw, fight, shoot and stab their way to preserving their lives.

These are both films with some artistic aspirations. But Hornaday questions whether the ultra-violence in both is in aid of or a distraction from their stories and their messages.

It’s possible to appreciate both films, even admire them, for their sheer ambition and near-flawless execution. But the virtuosity on display also produces its share of deep misgivings. Whether by way of Tarantino’s ironic distance or Iñárritu’s artily masochistic extremes, it’s genuine empathy and self-reflection that get short-circuited, swamped by surface values of aesthetics, technical achievement and shocking, vicarious jolts.

She compares the films to others released this year that engaged with serious, real-life atrocities like “Son of Saul,” “Room,” and “Spotlight” without making them as confrontational, explicit, even cartoonish. These films, she says, “call on each viewer’s memory, conscience and moral imagination to complete the picture and create its deepest meaning.” Individual responses to violence on film vary widely. For me, the question is: does it make you feel more or feel less?

Related Tags:


Critics Understanding Media and Pop Culture
THE MOVIE MOM® is a registered trademark of Nell Minow. Use of the mark without express consent from Nell Minow constitutes trademark infringement and unfair competition in violation of federal and state laws. All material © Nell Minow 1995-2024, all rights reserved, and no use or republication is permitted without explicit permission. This site hosts Nell Minow’s Movie Mom® archive, with material that originally appeared on Yahoo! Movies, Beliefnet, and other sources. Much of her new material can be found at Rogerebert.com, Huffington Post, and WheretoWatch. Her books include The Movie Mom’s Guide to Family Movies and 101 Must-See Movie Moments, and she can be heard each week on radio stations across the country.

Website Designed by Max LaZebnik