Leo gets mauled by a bear. That’s the part I dreaded before going to see “The Revenant” tonight. Surprise! The bear incident turned out to be the least of my problems with the movie. Worse was that it was boring, long, emotionally vacant and in love with its own artistry.
Speaking of which, I loved director Alejandro Inarritu’s previous films (“Babel,” “Biutiful,” “Birdman,” for ex), and I loved his films precisely because they were bold and art-house and unique. But “The Revenant” reminded me of last year’s Robert Redford’s “All Is Lost” about trying to survive on a sailboat all alone in the middle of the ocean. As I watched that one, I kept muttering, “Die already.” Same with Leo in “The Revenant.”
Backing up, the movie takes us to the American frontier in the 1800s. The French are fighting the Indians who are fighting the Americans – all of whom are hunting for pelts, as in fur from dead animals. Think: Davy Crockett only X-rated for blood and guts. Leo, whose Indian wife has gone to the big frontier in the sky, brings his half-Indian son along on this particular hunt. Unfortunately for both, Leo gets mauled by the aforementioned bear, the son is killed and Leo is left for dead by an unscrupulous fellow hunter played by Tom Hardy. The rest of the two-and-a-half-hour movie is how Leo drags his totally messed up body around in the snow and rain, down rapids, in and out of trees as he tries to survive in order to exact vengeance on Tom Hardy. He eats raw meat, climbs into the carcass of a dead horse to keep warm (an especially vomit-inducing scene) and generally grunts and breathes loudly throughout – only to have the requisite battle scene with his nemesis in the end….and die.
The cinematography is spectacular; there were scenes of the vast landscape that made me gasp they were so beautiful. But what attracted Inarritu to this story, which was inspired by a true one, beats me. Why put your actors and your audience through such gruesomeness? At least when you go to see a Quentin Tarrantino movie, the gory parts are supposed to be funny. Which is another way of saying I wish I’d gone to see “The Hateful Eight” instead.