Adrift in the Snow: The Revenant

A relentlessly brutal saga of survival and revenge set in the wintry wilderness of the American West, Alejandro G. Iñárritu’s The Revenant is an impressive piece of work, but frankly, it left me cold (pun unavoidable). I can’t deny the impressive physical achievement the director and his gifted cinematographer, Emmanuel Lubezki, have created under the most severe conditions imaginable, but I’d rather watch the making-of documentary than the picture itself.

Pundits have been predicting an Academy Award for Leonardo DiCaprio since springtime, and he doesn’t disappoint, delivering a rugged performance as a native guide that bespeaks a level of commitment any actor would be proud of. He is matched by an almost-unrecognizable Tom Hardy (sporting a perfect American accent) as a conniving trapper. They are completely credible as mortal enemies who will not give in until the last breath has left their bodies.

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Photo by Kimberley French – Courtesy of Twentieth Century Fox

          But this movie begs the question of when the dramatization of an ordeal becomes an ordeal in itself. There are staggering moments in The Revenant that no one who sees it is likely to forget, but they come at a price: having to sit through a long, unforgiving narrative that, like its leading characters, doesn’t know when enough is enough.

I also have a serious issue with a key plot point in the film, when an officer played by Domhnall Gleeson puts his trust in a character who has shown himself to be unreliable if not downright scummy. Not only does this make no sense, it undermines the rest of the story.

I don’t mean to minimize the work that went into this film, but Oscars shouldn’t be handed out on the basis of an actor’s (or director’s) endurance skills. Or, for that matter, a moviegoer’

Leonard Maltin is one of the world’s most respected film critics and historians. He is best known for his widely-used reference work Leonard Maltin’s Movie Guide and its companion volume Leonard Maltin’s Classic Movie Guide, now in its third edition, as well as his thirty-year run on television’s Entertainment Tonight. He teaches at the USC School of Cinematic Arts and appears regularly on Reelz Channel and Turner Classic Movies. His books include The 151 Best Movies You’ve Never Seen, Of Mice and Magic: A History of American Animated Cartoons, The Great Movie Comedians, The Disney Films, The Art of the Cinematographer, Movie Comedy Teams, The Great American Broadcast, and Leonard Maltin’s Movie Encyclopedia. He served two terms as President of the Los Angeles Film Critics Association, is a voting member of the National Film Registry, and was appointed by the Librarian of Congress to sit on the Board of Directors of the National Film Preservation Foundation. He hosted and co-produced the popular Walt Disney Treasures DVD series and has appeared on innumerable television programs and documentaries. He has been the recipient of awards from the American Society of Cinematographers, the Telluride Film Festival, Anthology Film Archives, and San Diego’s Comic-Con International. Perhaps the pinnacle of his career was his appearance in a now-classic episode of South Park. (Or was it Carmela consulting his Movie Guide on an episode of The Sopranos?) He holds court at Follow him on Twitter and Facebook; you can also listen to him on his weekly podcast: Maltin on Movies. — [Artwork by Drew Friedman]

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May 2024