The Revenant

A fundamentally confused work - too interested in viscera and violence for its attempted moments of contemplative, Malickian transcendence to register as anything but cringe-worthy (people claim Malick has devolved into self-parody but give this film's terrible imitations a pass?), yet too intent on turning its simplistic narrative into an all-encompassing comment on humanity for the violence and viscera to seem like anything more than aesthetic indulgence. Iñárritu once again utilises the roaming one-take for the majority of his film, and once again (apart from certain tense, well-executed action sequences), it feels utterly unnecessary, a technique which calls attention to it's own 'wow' factor whilst rendering much of the drama inert, Lubezki's camera wandering aimlessly between faces and nature instead of doing anything remotely interesting in terms of genuine, visually coherent storytelling. The gorgeous images here feel like window-dressing, existing simply to exist, doing nothing to attach us to the (mostly uninvolving) narrative at hand.
That being said, I was never actually bored whilst watching this - occasionally, when Iñárritu lets the film become nothing more than a brutalist, real-time survival story, there's the feeling of something genuinely thrilling occurring, a tale of one man's descent into nature untouched by the film's constant attempts at 'meaning' (the symbolism here is almost laughable). Hardy also gives a pretty terrific performance throughout, and when focusing solely on the action itself, Iñárritu's obnoxious aesthetic can at times be genuinely involving and effective. I guess it's just interesting watching a film straining so hard to be something more, something transcendent, yet failing so consistently - I respect ambition, but I guess sometimes ambition needs to be tethered to something more than vague philosophy and frustrating imitation. Fascinating, but not for the reasons Iñárritu intended.

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