Among the widely anticipated films slated for release within the next two months, Oscar-winning director Alejandro G. Iñárritu’s The Revenant appears to be in a league of its own. This isn’t because it towers above its competitors in demand, but rather because it carries with it some serious baggage – intense tales of production nightmares in hostile and unforgiving environments, disagreements, over budget and time – all of these things were just the tip of the iceberg in a production that quickly gained a reputation as "a living hell."
For some time it looked as though Iñárritu’s brutal vengeance tale of 19th century fur trapper Hugh Glass (Leonardo DiCaprio) was going to be a complete disaster. People were talking and they weren’t necessarily saying good things. Then, this past July, the first official trailer dropped. People stopped talking about the on-set rumours and complications, switching instead to words of praise. The pulsing rhythm and intensity of that first trailer offered something different – something altogether immense.
Since that first trailer, we’ve gradually seen more of The Revenant and learned a lot more about it. Now, as the initial reviews begin to pour in, we have a better idea of exactly what to expect. With that being said, you can get another look at the film via the newest TV trailer above, while below, we’ve compiled a few recent reviews for you to peruse. If you wish to read any of the reviews in their entirety, click on the highlighted link.
Empire - Nick De Semlyen
Some directors might have been tempted to follow an Oscar win by making a cushy comedy in the Bahamas – but the driven Iñárritu pushed himself and his crew to the limits against the elements. He defied conventional wisdom by shooting with natural light only, and in chronological order, and has emerged with something we have never seen before.
Variety - Justin Chang
In short, “The Revenant” must be appreciated first and foremost as a sensory and aesthetic marvel, a brutal hymn to the beauty and terror of the natural world that exerts a hypnotic pull from the opening frame. Its deficiencies as a human drama and a metaphysical meditation will take a bit longer to emerge.
The Guardian - Peter Bradshaw
But what is so distinctive about this Iñárritu picture is its unitary control and its fluency: no matter how extended, the film’s tense story is under the director’s complete control and he unspools great meandering, bravura travelling shots to tell it: not dissimilar, in some ways, to his previous picture, Birdman. The movie is as thrilling and painful as a sheet of ice held to the skin.
The Chicago Tribune - Michael Phillips
Inarritu's brand of intensity allows for zero emotional complexity. This is why even his better films have a hard time getting over the hump. It's hard to respond completely to a filmmaker who hits every beat, every note, with the same bug-eyed determination.
Total Film - James Mottram
Far more challenging than even Iñárritu’s bravura Oscar-winner Birdman, this is his Fitzcarraldo or his Apocalypse Now – man versus the elements, both on screen and off. Stories have already spread about the legendarily arduous shoot endured by cast and crew in the Canadian wilderness. Whatever hardships they went through were worth it.
Vanity Fair - Richard Lawson
It's a hairy true story, one ripe for the über-masculine film treatment, which is exactly what director Alejandro González Iñárritu has given us in the grueling The Revenant, as much a survival story for the audience as it is for the hero.
Slant - Jaime N. Christley
Fatally, the film can't be seen outside the context of its Oscar ambitions, and with those perceptions clear, it appears exactly as it is: naked, feeble, encrusted in community-theater makeup and an abundance of languorous interludes, all in concert to indicate capital-I importance.
The similarities that all these reviews share is that the overall scope of the film is tremendous and Leonardo DiCaprio -- though limited to a sparse amount of dialogue – delivers a spectacular, engaging and visceral performance. What's more, regardless of whether any of these critics liked or disliked the film, no one shied away from Oscar talk. It would seem that the first big film of the winter season is a hit and will likely be a serious awards contender in the New Year.
Still, hype is a dangerous thing when it comes to cinema. Critics are often susceptible to a sort of advance viewing syndrome; where everything appears larger than life and amazing when permitted the opportunity to have the first look. The Revenant will have no shortage of people queuing up for its January release and it’s exactly these people who will have the final say as to whether the film sinks or swims.
The Revenant will have a limited December 25th release before being widely released on January 8th, 2016.
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