REVIEW: The Revenant

The Revenant 4

The Revenant
Directed by: Alejandro González Iñárritu
Written by: Mark L. Smith & Alejandro González Iñárritu (screenplay), Michael Punke (novel)
Starring: Leonardo DiCaprio, Tom Hardy, Domhnall Gleeson and Will Poulter

Leonardo DiCaprio endures such an excruciating array of torments in Alejandro González Iñárritu’s The Revenant that by the time he guts a dead horse, strips naked and climbs inside it to keep warm for the night, I couldn’t help but laugh in pity.  The movie, set in an unspecified area of the American frontier in the 1820s, is a series of grueling endurance tests for his character Hugh Glass, and its payoff is a brawl that paints the snow red and fills it with chunks of skin and bone.

The Revenant is a predictable, hyper-masculine revenge story told with a brutal beauty. Glass is helping navigate a group of fellow frontiersman after their hunting expedition, though the movie wastes no time before pummeling the group with violence.  As they rest in the woods, a Native American tribe surrounds them and attacks;  arrows pierce throats, bullets rip through bodies. Much of the scene unfolds in a single take. The camera follows a person, usually until they die, and then picks another.  Unlike Birdman, Iñárritu’s underwhelming showbiz satire that was filmed as if it were all a single shot, The Revenant’s visual design enhances the movie’s other elements instead of overwhelming them.

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REVIEW: The Dark Knight Rises

The Dark Knight Rises
Directed by: Christopher Nolan
Written by: Jonathan Nolan & Christopher Nolan (screenplay), Christopher Nolan & David S. Goyer (story) and Bob Kane (characters)
Starring: Christian Bale, Tom Hardy, Anne Hathaway and Joseph Gordon-Levitt

It’s often impossible for a highly anticipated movie to live up to expectations, though Christopher Nolan certainly gives it his all in the conclusion to his Batman trilogy.  The Dark Knight Rises is as large-scale a production as almost anything that Hollywood cranks out on James Cameron’s down time, a pitch black morality play on the grandest scale imaginable.

Nolan is one of the premiere modern directorial maximalists, able to sustain brooding tone and narrative complexity while also delivering spectacle on a blockbuster scale.  His movies, however uneven in quality, are always eye-popping and visually inventive.  The Dark Knight Rises is not the near-masterpiece that its predecessor was, though like the first film in the trilogy it is still a highly admirable, disturbingly relevant vision.

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REVIEW: Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy
Directed by: Tomas Alfredson
Written by: Bridget O’Connor & Peter Straughan (screenplay), John le Carré (novel)
Starring: Gary Oldman, Tom Hardy, Colin Firth and John Hurt

If you’re not prepared to donate every ounce of your attention to this film, then do not bother watching it.  Tomas Alfredson’s adaptation of Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy is one of the twistiest films to come along in years.

Like he did in adapting the vampire thriller Let the Right One In, though, he takes those narrative thrills and restrains them within his deliberately arranged frames until the tension boils over.  There is only one “action” sequence in Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, and it’s the rather clumsily constructed assassination of a spy (Mark Strong) sent to Hungary to find out the identity of a mole within MI6 (the British equivalent of the CIA).

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