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sábado, 16 de janeiro de 2016
The Revenant review: 'Leo's beautiful endurance test'
Extreme cold; horrific bear attacks; eating raw liver. If this raw revenge western doesn't win Leonardo DiCaprio an Oscar, nothing will
Just over a month ago, I wrote that The Revenant gave Leonardo DiCaprio his best chance at winning an Oscar to date. Now the only conceivable way that might not happen is if the actor is mauled by a bear on his way to the podium.
What a preposterously enjoyable film DiCaprio and his director, Alejandro González Iñárritu, have cooked up – a glistening, gut-wrenching wilderness concerto grosso, drunk on blockbuster quantities of self-importance and with the coppery tang of machismo pricking on its palate. The Revenant is the embellished true story of a 19th-century fur trapper, Hugh Glass, who endures a savage bear attack and the death of his son at the hands of a fellow frontiersman – then claws his way across thousands of miles of frozen rock in order to settle the score.
By “he”, “him” and “his”, I mean DiCaprio’s character – but to an extent I also mean DiCaprio, because part of the fun of watching The Revenant is knowing its cast and crew went through hell to make it. If you’ve read any coverage of the film, you’ll be familiar with the on-set horror stories: the perishing cold, the miserable cross-country tramps to remote locations, Iñárritu’s temper-fraying, schedule-destroying insistence on shooting only with the available natural light.
Every last grunt and stomp of effort is there to be felt in the finished film, and you sense DiCaprio and Iñárritu wouldn’t have it any other way. The film ends with Glass staring directly into the camera: in that moment, its leading man might as well be confidently ushering you into the bathroom with a ruler.
Separating what The Revenant is from what it means is tricky, because the two are more or less the same thing. The film stretches for sublimity, addressing grand, spiritual issues like revenge and rebirth. But its moral turns out to be no more complicated than "don’t give up" – and what really keeps you watching is the dumb thrill of finding out what horrendous thing will happen next. The whole project is a bizarre blend of arthouse and frat-house: an episode of Jackass as envisioned by Terrence Malick.
What psychological gristle there is doesn’t come in Glass’s portion of the film because, gripping as his story may be, there isn’t much more to the character than suffering and stoicism. (Glass’s status as a father, which should have complicated things, never quite connects in the way you’d hope.) Instead, the intrigue comes in the side-story about the companions who abandon him: Fitzgerald (Tom Hardy), a hard-bitten mercenary with a pancake-like tomahawk scar across his scalp, and Bridger (Will Poulter, tremendous), a callow young trapper who becomes the older man’s reluctant accomplice.
Every step of their respective journeys feels treacherous, every frame infused with the landscape’s diamond-tipped beauty and breezy disregard for human life. Snow whirls and billows, twilight glowers on the horizon, embers dance like fireflies in the night. The hallucinatory texture of the film’s world rhymes perfectly with Ryuichi Sakamoto and Alva Noto’s ambient score, which sounds less composed than beamed down from the cosmos.
These visuals come courtesy of the brilliant cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki, who also racks up some show-stopping tracking shots here that match the "single-take" stunt in his and Iñárritu’s previous collaboration, Birdman – if not for length, then for nerveless swagger.
Foremost among them is the bear attack itself, which passes in three long takes so raw and real, they move Glass’s suffering beyond immersive into the realms of the participatory. At points, the creature (which is computer-generated, though you wouldn’t know it) comes so close to the camera that her breath actually fogs the lens – and later on, the breath and blood of human characters will do the same.
Ordinarily, that would count as a basic error, and take you out of the film in a heartbeat. But in The Revenant, it draws you further in, lending a hot immediacy to its characters’ fight for life.
“Pain is temporary, but a film is forever,” Iñárritu said when collecting a Golden Globe for Best Director last week. He’s absolutely right, but forever isn’t a concept The Revenant has any time for. It’s two and a half hours of beautiful, visceral present – a film that’s chasing transcendence and wants it now, now, now.