We’re all aware of the phrase TLDNR (Too Long, Did Not Read) for posts on the Internet. This is a segment called TLDNW (Too Long, Did Not Watch). It’s for people that just don’t have time to go to the movies. Now, I work pretty hard every year to see the entire list of films nominated for Best Picture at the Oscars. You probably won’t get to all of them, because I assume you have a social life. Luckily for you, it is my goal in the following weeks to post reviews of the 2016 Oscar-nominated movies so that you can be caught up before the big night.
However, I know even reading a whole review is time-consuming and not for everyone. Many people just look at the star rating and don’t bother with the rest of the review. Even now you’re probably bored of this introduction.
So I’ll make it short and sweet. For every movie I review, I’ll include three sections: 1) A 1-word review, because frankly most people are lazy. 2) A 20-word review so you have things to say about the film when your friends ask if you saw it. 3) An in-depth 500-word review.
TLDNW: 1 Word
TLDNW: 20 Words
Exhausting. Horses in the mist. Beautiful cinematography that masks awful storytelling. Leo grunting in the woods. Tom Hardy’s forehead.
TLDNW: 500 Words
Two out of Four Stars
Alejandro G. Iñárritu is fresh off a triple Oscar win in the 2015 race, taking home Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Screenplay for the well-deserved Birdman (or the Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance). Birdman is a masterpiece, combining an incredible ensemble with a tightly written script. To cap it off, the film is shot (or at least appears to be shot) in one take.
But this is not a review of Birdman; this is a review of the devastatingly disappointing garbage factory that is The Revenant.
Let’s get some positives out of the way so I don’t get too much hate. Yes, Iñárritu knows how to direct a movie. The shots are incredible, the cinematography is outstanding, and the landscapes are fantastic. Tom Hardy is exceptional as always, and Leo will certainly win the Oscar for lead actor (I really hope he does win the Oscar so that everyone will just shut up about it already). I’m also a big lover of bears and work closely with bears in Alberta during my summers – so I was expecting to be extremely upset with the bear attack, but even I had difficulty finding inaccuracies in this sequence (the bear is protecting her cubs, not attacking for meat or for no reason whatsoever as I was expecting). The problem with The Revenant is that it equates pain with good storytelling.
There have been plenty of stories circulating about the hardships the actors had to go through to make this film. DiCaprio has stated that he and the cast all got hypothermia, he ate raw fish and raw bison liver, and that he suffered through freezing temperatures and long hours.
Here’s my main point: just because a film was difficult to make does not make it a better picture. Hardship does not excuse poor storytelling, or racist depictions of aboriginal people, or long exhaustive sequences of Leo grunting in the woods. Many people have looked past these sins because of the grueling stories they’ve heard about the filming. I cannot forgive these misgivings, however.
In the film, Leo’s hunting party leaves his character for dead and he must track down the man that killed his son. This sentence aptly sums the entire film, yet it still somehow manages to be 2.5 hours long. The film builds to such an anti-climax that it almost seems like a joke. It tries to teach a lesson about never giving up and persevering, but I felt like I needed that lesson just to make it through the movie. There’s a weird, unfulfilled theme of forgiveness, and some gaping plot holes that are wildly ignored.
It is disappointing that this movie will be praised for artistry simply because the artists suffered to create it. In fact, we need to look past whatever weird torture the cast and crew went through to truly get to the heart of this ultimately disappointing film.
The Revenant’s opening sequence is near perfection: it’s tense and beautiful and sad and gory and highlights Iñárritu’s ability to make a film. Unfortunately, the rest of the film cannot live up to the first twenty minutes. The Revenant falls short of anything spectacular, and ultimately lies in the unfortunate realm of exhausting.
Click here to check out the rest of Spencer’s TLDNW reviews.