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Film Review: The Revenant

the revenant

Film Review: The Revenant


The Revenant is one of those films which is more of an endurance test than a piece of entertainment, more of an immersive experience than the observation of a story. Depending on how you look at it this can be other good or bad. One thing The Revenant is not, however, is boring.

The plot is a simple one, and one filmgoers have seen before. Leonardo DiCaprio plays Hugh Glass, a tracker and fur trapper in the 1820s frontier of North America. After he and his hunting party are attacked by a group of Native Americans, a dozen of the survivors flee into the wilderness. Glass is then mauled by a bear and is carried some distance by his fellow trappers, before the terrain makes transporting the injured man impossible. Soon bickering and dissenting loyalties among the group ensue. The antagonist of the group, Fitzgerald, played by Tom Hardy, kills Glass’ son and leaves the injured fur trapper for dead. The rest of the movie follows a similar narrative to that of any revenge flick, with DiCaprio’s character, half-dead, battling against the elements in pursuit of the man who killed his son.

What makes The Revenant a cut above the rest in its genre is the technical brilliance with which the filmmaking itself is executed. Director Alejandro Iñárritu uses similar techniques which brought him Oscar success last year with ‘Birdman’. Long, sweeping takes follow the action with few cuts, and there seems to be nowhere the camera cannot go: on horseback, into the air and underwater. Uncomfortably close shots of the actors’ faces, seething, panting and gazing into the cold wilderness put the viewer right beside them. The violence, from the opening scene of the Indian raid in the hunting camp to a knife fight and the incredible bear-mauling sequence is brutal and unrelenting.

Much of this immersive and engaging style must be accredited to the cinematography of Emmanuel Lubezki, who, along with the director, chose to shoot the film in all natural light for added authenticity. When the camera isn’t following arrows from Indian bows and swirling around on horseback pursuits, it is capturing the rocky mountain landscape and merciless terrain in all its petrifying glory. The use of pale, cold daylight results in jaw-dropping vista shots and breath-taking views of the vast forest and white mountain ranges that put the viewer right in the picture.

The score of the film imitates the uncomfortableness of the environment, with winding electronic drones and thunderous orchestral charges which drive the action forward.

The acting from the whole cast is superb. The real stand-out performance, however, must go to Leonardo DiCaprio- if for nothing but for the sheer endurance and strength to play such a physically demanding role. In a part with little dialogue, his character is portrayed through brutal action and a seething anger bubbling under the surface as he pursues his son’s killer. He is put through every obstacle the wilderness can throw at him and the viewer is freezing and writhing with him every step of the way.

So, if you’re looking for an easy, relaxing flick to unwind with after a long day, The Revenant is not it. However, for sheer spectacle and an incredibly immersive cinematic experience, you can do no better.





50 Shades Of Grey Review

Valentine’s Day marked the release of the much anticipated 50 Shades of Grey, the film adaption of E.L. James’s erotic romance novel, which has sold over 100 million copies worldwide.

 Jamie Dornan plays Christian Grey, a successful Billionaire businessman, with a need to control all things sexual and otherwise. Dornan has previously played the role of serial killer, Paul Spector in BBC drama The Fallwhich led him nicely into this equally complex and at times disturbing character of Mr Grey. The actor who has modelled for Armani is easy on the eyes and leaves the female population ready to trade places with Ana Steele. Dornan stars opposite Dakota Johnston, who has an air of awkwardness which actually makes for effective viewing and adds a sense of real and relate-ability to the character of Anastasia.

The sex scenes were eagerly anticipated, simply because so many wondered how far the movie would push the boundaries. For a majority of the time, they were a perfect balance of artistic insinuation and to the point shockers. However, one scene is an exception to the rule, and I found myself tense and uncomfortable, as the film explored the all too realistic theme of sadism. None the less, the scenes were shot with the view to outline the surface of lust motivation while also portraying underlying emotions which help link the sexual scenes to much a deeper storyline.

The people behind this movie had brilliantly used the large reading audience of this story to their advantage. They were aware that it would be pointless to try and hide any information and allow the movie plot to ‘unfold’, because unless you live under a rock you know what 50 Shades of Grey is about. Instead, they allowed Mr Grey to release hints in front of the unknowing Ana and this allowed the audience to be involved in the ‘inside joke’. Such as when Mr Grey goes to the Hardware store to buy cable ties, rope and duct tape.

At the risk of giving too much away I’ll stop before divulging any more information. All that I will say, is that coming out of the cinema most of the patrons were saying, “I wish I had a Mr Grey. Perhaps there really is something irresistible about a man with money, power and an air of self-assured confidence, and looking like Jamie Dornan helped too I suppose.

This Changes Everything

Captain America: The Winter Soldier. Dir: Anthony Russo, Joe Russo. Staring: Chris Evans, Sebastian Stan, Scarlett Johansen, Samuel, L. Jackson, Robert Redford. Cert: 12A. Run Time: 136 minutes.

“The price of freedom is high… and it’s a price I’m willing to pay. You told me not to trust anyone and this is how it ends: Everything goes!” Chris Evans’ Steve Rogers tells Samuel L. Jackson’s Nick Fury and he wasn’t wrong.

Captain America: The Winter Soldier invites audiences back into the billion dollar franchise that is the Marvel Cinematic Universe, however unlike it’s other ‘Phase 2’ cohorts, Iron Man 3 and Thor 2, this movie has a very substantial link to 2012’s ‘Marvel’s Avengers Assemble‘.

With the constant bombardment of superhero movies following largely the same format, complicated sci-fi mumbo jumbo plot that the lead character must save us from, it was refreshing to see Cap 2 change things slightly as the movie took the tone of a political thriller.

The high tech first world security council, SHIELD, developed throughout Cap’s numerous predecessors, yet strangely absent from Iron Man 3 and Thor 2, is central to the plot.

The enemy here is from within, which means no-one is to be trusted, and who better for a lead role in this type of plot than a whiter than white patriot Steve Rogers, however Cap isn’t the most complex of characters, so it was good to see Scarlett Johansen’s Black Widow with her murky past take on a fuller role in this movie.

The villain of the piece, The Winter Soldier, played by Sebastian Stan is surprisingly disappointing, his identity reveal came as no surprise and  the character feels as if he has been merely introduced, rather than actually dealt with, in this instalment.

Of course, the key strength of these Marvel movies is the way they tie into each other, they all feel part of the wider universe, and with this in mind, this movies climax, will have major repercussions for future instalments and for green lighting these risky decisions Marvel President, Kevin Feige deserves credit.


Rush: A high-speed journey into the glory days of Formula One

Director: Ron Howard
Writer: Peter Morgan
Stars: Chris Helmsworth, Daniel Brühl, Olivia Wilde

Formula One motor racing is safer than ever.  Crashes are rare and fatalities are almost non-existent.   The last driver to die in a Grand Prix was the irreplaceable Ayrton Senna, who sadly lost his life in Monaco in 1994.

The majority of fans no doubt welcome this new safety, but many believe much of the magic has been lost.   There have been no great rivalries for years; no characters divide the public’s opinion week in, week out – the sport has become boring.  Things were different in the 1970s, when the subjects of Ron Howard’s new biopic, Rush were engaged in one of the most thrilling duels the sport will ever see.  Rush tells the story of James Hunt and Niki Lauda.

The film begins with Hunt (Chris Helmsworth) and Lauda (Daniel Brühl) starting their careers in Formula Three.  The polar nature of their characters is instantly visible.  Hunt is arrogant and reckless, with a frightening disregard for his own health.  Lauda is calculating and robotic – he’s Austrian.   We follow them on their journey into Formula One, where in 1976 they go wheel-to-wheel in one of the greatest battles in Formula One history.

Brühl is superb as Lauda, he brilliantly plays a man who is constantly battling his emotions and the urge to drive faster, in favour of relative safety.  As for Helmsorth,  I’ve seen trees less wooden.  His job of portraying the hot-headed Hunt was far less complex than Bruhl’s, but watching each scene I couldn’t help the feeling that he was going to pull out a giant hammer and fly home to Asgard, can acting be zero-dimensional?  Perhaps he was cast for his physical resemblance to James Hunt, which is remarkable; indeed all of the main characters are nearly identical to their real life counterparts.

Hunt and Lauda in their racing days
Hunt and Lauda in their racing days

The actual race sequences are breath-taking, with the editors deservedly winning a BAFTA for their efforts.  However the script is clichéd and perhaps lacks authenticity (something tells me the Austrian Lauda never said “stop busting my balls!”), but it is a Ron Howard movie after all – I expected Gorgonzola and was pleasantly surprised to be served a mild Gruyere.

This film about how far one is willing to go in order to achieve their ambitions, and at what cost, is enjoyable and quite exciting, but the director has been a little predictable.  I just hope that if a movie is ever made about the rivalry between the great Ayrton Senna and his French adversary Alain Prost, Ron Howard isn’t in the driving seat.

The Perks of Being a Wallflower – DVD Review


Ezra Miller, Emma Watson and Logan Lerman star in The Perks of Being a Wallflower
Ezra Miller, Emma Watson and Logan Lerman star in The Perks of Being a Wallflower

“The Perks of Being a Wallflower” is the story of Charlie (Logan Lerman): a freshman in high school with problems, but not the kind of problems usually found in your typical high school drama. It is only when Charlie meets his best friends Patrick (Ezra Miller) and Sam (Emma Watson) that his problems finally seem to dissipate.

Unlike other book-to-film adaptations, “Perks” was written, directed and produced by the author, Stephen Chbosky, making it very true to the book. The screenplay is emotive and really brings the characters to life (with the aid of the actors). There are also well placed moments of humour amidst various difficult storylines and character backgrounds.

Chbosky made many attempts to adapt the book into a film but something was stopping him every time. However, only eleven years later he came across the perfect cast and filming began in the summer of 2011. It was then that Steve, as he is informally known, felt the timing was right. This is how the great cast was formed.

Logan gives a believable and genuine performance as Charlie. As do the other members of the cast with their respective characters. Ezra portrays Patrick in a way every fan of the book would be proud of: exuberant, quirky and very funny. Emma plays Sam in a way that you don’t see her as that girl from “Harry Potter”.

The soundtrack is stereotypically of a generation who have just left the ‘80s behind them and are embarking upon the fresher scene of grunge with tracks from Sonic Youth and Galaxie 500 making an appearance; and although they’re not a ‘90s band, we cannot forget about Charlie’s favourite, The Smiths

“The Perks of Being a Wallflower” is very different from other American teenage dramas because of the characters and their stories. They are written in such a way that you believe they could be real. Their backgrounds are believable and moving, and although there is a simmering love story between Sam and Charlie, it is never over-powering, which is refreshing.

This was a great cinema and home experience. After being a fan of the book and waiting not-so-patiently for the film, I can say it was worth the wait. It is easily my favourite film of all time.