The Blog

The Revenant and Room - Reviewed



Alejandro G. Innaritu / Leonardo DiCaprio, Tom Hardy / Thriller / 2016 / 15 / 156mins

A thought occurred to me as I sat for my post-cinema pint: maybe it's a blessing DiCaprio has never won an Oscar?

Think about it, the man's desire for one of those glistening, golden statuettes borderlines the psychotic. We wouldn't have the quaalude-tripping sex addict that is Jordan Belfort, the sinister racist Calvin Candie or this:


He's mastered comedy (The Wolf of Wall Street) he's mastered drama (Revolution Road) villains (Django: Unchained) heroes (Inception) detectives (The Departed) Shakespeare (Romeo + Juliet) fictional icons (The Great Gatsby) and real ones (The Aviator).

After his last major loss to Matthew McConaughey in 2014, the internet duly flipped the fuck out. Although it's fair to say McConaughey deserved to win (and he did), it's also clear DiCaprio has a lot of eager fans awaiting the day he too wins, and when that day comes the parades will hit the streets and we shall rejoice. Well, good news everyone: DiCaprio's gonna win because he's fucking mental and did everything he could this time round, and I mean everything - director Innaritu, freely admitting to being a maniac himself, was impressed by Leo outweirding him.

In summary, The Revenant is a survival epic based on the true story of Hugh Glass (DiCaprio) and how he was mauled by a bear in frontier America in the 1820s and left for dead. It's rammed full of action and gore (probably should have been an 18 rating if I'm honest), insane detail and legitimacy, and makes for the best period-thriller I have ever seen. The incredible acting from DiCaprio, Tom Hardy (as John Fitzgerald) and Will Poulter (as Jim Bridger) is paltry in comparison to the film as a film.

With a shoot of The Revenant's stature it was guaranteed to go down in history. Innaritu - being the crazy bastard he is - insisted on only using natural light, meaning a very limited time to film on location in the Canadian mountains. The scenery and the cinematography are beautiful - pure art. The little things, like the hyperrealistic makeup, the CGI, the inclusion of authentic Native American languages, the editing for the dream sequences, even the sound editing; the collective package is just mesmerising. Lengthy singleshot sequences are utilised, giving you the impression that you're there in the wilderness amongst the men, battling the elements.

It's a fantastic immersive experience that you will never forget; a cinematic voyage of Darwinian symbolism, man versus nature an' all that. One great act of catharsis that is undoubtedly an instant masterpiece to add to Innaritu's oeuvre, a magnum opus to stand alongside Birdman (which was only last year!!) - bow, peasants, before the God of Cinema.

A tour-de-force of cinema - UNMISSABLE.




Lenny Abrahamson / Brie Larson, Jacob Tremblay, Joan Allen, Sean Bridgers / Drama-Thriller / 2016 / 15 / 117mins

If you're claustrophobic you're gonna shit yourself when you see this.

Now that we've whittled down to the tough bastards who brave dramas for breakfast, I'll give you a little more solid info. Adapted from Emma Donoghue's bestselling novel, Lenny Abrahamson has directed what some would regard as a play, a close encounter with a horrifying ordeal from the perspective of our otherwise unware narrator Jack (Jacob Tremblay), a 5 year old boy who has only ever known Room. You see, he was born into it. There is nothing but ROOM.

Funnily enough, all the audience sees is Room too, for the first hour at least. Jack doesn't fear Room, so why should we? The chilling twist is his Ma, Joy (Brie Larson), was kidnapped at 17 and held captive within a soundproofed shed at the end of the garden of her captor, Old Nick (Sean Bridgers). It's no spoiler to reveal they escape Old Nick's clutches, the magic lies in observing how two individuals irrevocably bound together transition through this period of trauma.

Room melds genres to construct a beautifully halved 60 minute thriller and 50 minute drama together. Two simple parts: the ordeal and escape; then the recovery. This unification allows a dramatic shift in emotion, dialogue and action to be conveyed effectively by the cast. Brie Larson delivers way beyond expectation. Her recent Golden Globe success was no fluke - I finally understand the hype. To express Joy's turmoil through facial and body language - being strong for her son; bringing him up in the least psychologically damaging way; dealing with their crisis - is masterful. She's 26 years old and probably going to win an Oscar... we might as well give up. Tremblay is a fantastic prospect, hopefully not another wasted child star. Minor actors deserve mention - a personal highlight would be Tom McCamus, who plays step-dad/grandad Leo. What I love about their performances are their hyper-realistic reactions to the emotional toll of the plot. Even certain shots, especially when Jack escapes, stick to the concept at hand, emphasising first person trauma when the real world is revealed to him, the light and the dark.

The Oscar sharks are already swarming round this mini-masterpiece, and I'm not surprised - they do love a good drama. Their beady eyes, however, are firmly stuck on leading lady Brie Larson, and damn right, she's outstanding. My only criticism - perhaps the drama segment goes on for too long? It seems to spiral out with a lack of coherency, just a series of events. Although an apt representation of Joy and Jack's newfound experience of time, it could have been edited shorter; we don't need to immerse ourselves in their sorrow. The decisive reason for not giving full marks - not everyone is gonna enjoy the harrowing experience. Or rather, a 5 star thriller followed by a 4 star drama?

A drama with oomph - not for the weak hearted.


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