The next report card is for a film which is getting lots of buzz right now and could potentially win the Academy Award for Best Picture very soon: The Revenant.
The Revenant—directed by Alejandro González Iñárritu; written by Mark L. Smith (screenplay), Alejandro G. Iñárritu (screenplay), Michael Punke (novel); starring Leonardo DiCaprio (Hugh Glass), Tom Hardy (John Fitzgerald), Domhnall Gleeson (Captain Andrew Henry), Will Poulter (Bridger), Forrest Goodluck (Hawk), Paul Anderson (Anderson), Kristoffer Joner (Murphy), and Joshua Burge (Stubby Bill).
Our protagonist Hugh Glass is rather disappointing, not having much to him other than grunts of determination to avenge his son, Hawk, who is nothing much more than just "Glass's son who dies." By far, that's my biggest criticism when it comes to characters, as there should have been more there. In fact, nearly every single character is indistinguishable from the next, even if you look at their IMDB profiles. I can't tell you who Anderson, Murphy, or Stubby Bill were.
Bridger is a worthwhile supporting character and Henry is honorable enough that I liked him, but he didn't do a ton other than looking concerned. Again, underwhelming, even if I thought those characters were okay.
Fitzgerald, on the other hand, is great. He's the only one with more complicated motivations than pure revenge, he has the best dialogue, has the widest range of emotion and if this film weren't half his point of view, it would be a total drag.
Leonardo DiCaprio does so well with so little in this that I really hope he does win Best Actor. To be fair, though, at this time we don't know who else is going to be nominated and I haven't seen a good number of the films getting attention (like Michael Fassbender for Steve Jobs) but I think Leo's competition is going to have to be pretty damn amazing to take this from him.
That being said, Tom Hardy steals the show. I actually think he's the better actor of the two in this movie, and by default, the best actor in the whole film. If he doesn't get at least nominated for Best Supporting Actor, that's a travesty, as he should possibly win it in my book.
Everybody else gets lots of credit for putting up admirable (albeit not memorable) performances in such harsh environments. That's a lot of dedication that I know I wouldn't be able to pull off.
VISUALS (FX, MAKEUP, COSTUMES, SETS): A+
Filming this movie in natural light and coming out with that result is absolutely amazing and worth of the A+ on its own right. This movie is beautiful and it even made me—someone who has no interest in nature and camping and whatnot—kind of wish that I could just sit by one of the streams for a bit, before inevitably wimping out because that's way too damn cold for me.
While the cinematography of the environment is virtually timeless, the makeup and the costumes and sets are all pulling the weight of bringing you into that specific time frame, and they all achieve that goal in spades. People are grimy and dirty and everything seems as harsh as it likely was.
MUSIC & SOUND: B+
There wasn't much music, but in this film, that was okay, as the silence spoke for it. Still, the lack of a memorable theme is a tad disappointing. Sound design is something that I've always said I'm not the most educated about, but I saw (I mean, heard) nothing that stood out to me negative about this movie and nothing that really made me wow. Perhaps that's another instance where it's best that I didn't notice a thing, as it means it was so believable that I just bought into it all happening for real.
TONE (ACTION, ROMANCE, COMEDY): A–
ACTION: If you go into this movie expecting it to be lots of explosions and fast-paced energy, you'll be disappointed, but you'll also be an idiot because it's not advertised like that at all. The level of action in this film is far above what it needed to do to tell the story and I dug it.
COMEDY: I might have chuckled twice or thrice, but I think one of those might have been at something obscure that I wasn't supposed to laugh at, like a random idiosyncrasy or a line delivered in a funny accent. This is definitely not a movie to see if you're looking for a pick-me-up.
ROMANCE: The love story in this movie wasn't so much a romantic one, but the love between a father and son/daughter, which were about as simple as they could get. The next closest thing was between Glass and his wife (or I guess Powaqa and those terrible French guys) and there's not much to say about that.
FINAL GRADE: A
So far, this is one of the best films I've seen in the past 12 months. I don't know if I'll be rooting for it to win Best Picture quite yet, as I need to see what it's up against, but if it did win, I don't think I'd be disappointed. There are definitely some flaws here and there that could be fixed to make this an absolutely amazing movie, but I'm still astonished by a good portion of what I saw. This is long and it's dour, but just because it doesn't wrap itself up in a neat little package to send everyone home smiling doesn't mean that it isn't good, or great. The best parts about this are easily the performances of Tom Hardy and Leonardo DiCaprio as well as the cinematography. Those factors alone mean this should get a recommendation to watch.