Arrival – Denis Villeneuve

Arrival starring Amy Adams, Jeremy Renner, and Forest Whitaker.
Photo Credit: Jan Thijs/Paramount Pictures

Canadian director Denis Villeneuve (Prisoners, Sicario, Incendies) has done something extraordinary. Arrival is what had been missing from the 2016 movie year and exactly what was needed, a truly unique and enormously entertaining film. Much more than the average science fiction film, Arrival takes alien encounters very seriously. Amy Adams and Jeremy Renner play the roles of acclaimed linguist Louise Banks and physicist Ian Donnelly, who are called upon by the U.S. Army to provide input on the alien visitors and their gravity-defying ship. They are tasked to find out why they came and what they want. As expected, it can be very difficult to communicate with a being that doesn’t speak or think in terms humans can understand, so they have a long and complicated road ahead if them. It’s both intriguing and entertaining to watch the story unfold.

From the get-go, Arrival is unsettling, mostly due to Jóhann Jóhannsson‘s haunting score (listen here). A generally somber mood is crafted right at the beginning with a cryptic monologue by Adams and a series of flashbacks. Most of the movie is dark and shadowy with some exceptional cinematography and sleek production design, both of which Arrival received Oscar nominations for. The acting is superb, with a striking performance by Adams, which was sadly ignored by the Academy.

Much like Villeneuve’s other films, every scene and conversation has a purpose; no screen time is wasted on cheap science fiction thrills like scary aliens or battle sequences. Arrival is as sophisticated as it is unique. There is some action and some intense moments, but overall it would almost classify as a science fiction drama. If you are in the mood for something light à la Independence Day: Resurgence , you will be very disappointed. The characters are in a race against time to solve a puzzle – in this case an alien language – where the consequences of getting it wrong could mean war.

Just shy of 120 minutes, Arrival is a great length and does not take an hour to end once things ramp up (looking at you, Return of the King). It takes you on a complex journey and holds back some key information for a big reveal that will leave you breathless and perhaps even choking back some tears. Some will even think that the movie is over too soon, that there could have been more – more explanations or more conclusions – but in the end, Arrival is as close to perfect as a film can get. Nothing is as it seems, and you’ll probably re-watch it as soon as you can to fully appreciate Villeneuve’s mastery.

The film was released in November 2016 and grossed just short of $200M worldwide.

Arrival was nominated for eight Oscars, including Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Adapted Screenplay. It ended up walking away with one win for sound editing.

Watch the official trailer here:

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The Accountant – Gavin O’Connor

The Accountant starring Ben Affleck, Anna Kendrick, and J.K. Simmons. Photo Credit: Chuck Zlotnick/Warner Bros

The Accountant starring Ben Affleck, Anna Kendrick, and J.K. Simmons.
Photo Credit: Chuck Zlotnick/Warner Bros

Director Gavin O’Connor doesn’t have very much to boast about in terms of past films, only 2011’s Warrior can give any sort of indication that he knows what he’s doing – and not many people saw that one – so despite the last minute marketing effort, the expectations for The Accountant were set pretty low. It could go either way, the movie could either be heavily character driven and not nearly as exciting as the previews indicated (like O’Connor’s Pride and Glory), or it could be a standard action-thriller with all the right moves. As it turns out, The Accountant was neither. The action sequences are fast-paced, satisfying, and deadly and the character development is intriguing, dramatic, and tasteful. The successful fusion of both of these genres is what makes the movie interesting and widely appealing.

Ben Affleck stars as the main character Christian Wolff, known to the U.S. Treasury Department as “the accountant”, among other aliases. He is a mathematics savant with autistic tendencies who has used his exceptional skills to provide accounting services to the criminal underworld for years, while managing to stay alive between jobs. As expected, he has his unique quirks and his ability to understand social cues is virtually non-existent, but his neurodevelopment disorder is never ridiculed or used as the brunt of the joke in The Accountant. Some scenes and exchanges are amusing, but the general “handling” of the condition (as well as its diagnosis) is in no way offensive. Christian’s other impressive skill, explained in a series of childhood flashbacks, is that he is a killing machine; of course, he only puts this to good use when the situation calls for it and when it appeals to his moral code.

When Christian takes on what is thought to be a low-key job investigating some missing money at a robotics company, things start to unravel. Both he and a fellow accountant Dana (Anna Kendrick) find themselves in a situation that calls for him to mostly use his secondary set of skills. Anna Kendrick is delightfully awkward as always and manages to compliment the mostly stoic Affleck. The plot (or plots) is a bit of a mess at times, but the conclusion mostly makes up for any mistakes along the 128-minute pathway.

The supporting cast is quite good, with John Lithgow (Interstellar) as the head of the robotics firm, J.K Simmons (Whiplash) and Cynthia Addai-Robinson as the treasury agents hot on Christian’s trail, Jon Bernthal (Sicario) as deadly hitman, and finally Jeffrey Tambor in a small role as a fellow inmate.

Critics haven’t been very impressed with The Accountant since its release on October 14, 2016, but audiences have generally found it entertaining and worth watching. It’s not your everyday garden variety action film, nor is it a boring piece solely focused on character development. While it won’t win any awards or be remembered for years to come, it takes the good parts from each genre and manages to win you over in the end.

The Accountant was a solid #1 hit in its opening weekend, bringing in over $24M domestically (U.S.A).

Watch the official trailer here:

Snowden – Oliver Stone

Snowden starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Shailene Woodley.

Snowden starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Shailene Woodley, Zachary Quinto, Tom Wilkinson and Melissa Leo. Photo Credit: Jürgen Olczyk/Open Road Films

While some may believe Oliver Stone‘s Edward Snowden biopic was made a decade too early (the events in the film occur between 2009 and 2013), there is something to be said for presenting the story to the public while it is still relevant and while things aren’t yet resolved. The details leading up to, and the events surrounding Edward Snowden’s exposure of the U.S Government’s secretive surveillance programs was something Oliver Stone was born to direct (and write), given his penchant for politically controversial topics (the Kennedy assassination and the Vietnam war, for example). The Oscar-winning  writer-director of Platoon, Born on the Fourth of July, JFK, and Nixon, to name a few, took on the challenge of capturing the story and also the essence of the man who leaked extremely classified NSA documents to journalists from The Guardian in 2013.

Snowden stars Joseph Gordon-Levitt as Edward Snowden, Shailene Woodley as his girlfriend Lindsay Mills, and a number of other accomplished actors as colleagues, friends, and contacts. Familiar faces such as Nicolas Cage, Melissa Leo, Zachary Quinto, Tom Wilkinson, Timothy Olyphant, and Rhys Ifans are featured throughout the film in various roles. Unlike most other Oliver Stone films, Snowden will appeal to a much larger audience; it’s not as slow-moving or as long as some of his more famous films (which can range anywhere from 2 hrs to a whopping 3 hrs and 12 mins).  The topics presented in the film may be complex, but they are explained clearly and certainly spark a sense of alarm and disbelief as the far-reach of the government is presented before your eyes. As one can expect from a movie like this, the world of coding and hacking is displayed in a stylish manner – all flashing lights and visual effects – which generally appeals to everyone aside from computer nerds who tend to know better.

Joseph Gordon-Levitt became Edward Snowden in this film. His mannerisms, his speech, even his look is completely captured almost to the point where it becomes creepy. It takes a moment to adjust to the new voice and to stop thinking of it just as an actor’s “really good impression”, but rather a performance – a full embodiment of the character Edward Snowden. It’s a complex thing to try to show the internal struggle of a man torn between being patriotic and doing (what he perceived as) the right thing for his fellow man. The other actors do a great job in their supporting roles, but the focus stays on the subject at hand – Snowden. Even though you know how it ends, the film remains captivating and does not drag on (which tends to happen when a movie pushes past a 2 hr runtime).

It can be argued that the film only shows one side of the story and doesn’t take into account the potentially dangerous implications of Snowden’s actions, but it’s the side that needed telling just the same. A striking number of people don’t know the story, or even that it happened in the first place (which is even more shocking); so aside from the Oscar-winning documentary Citizenfour, this is the next best thing to get to know the man behind one of the biggest security breaches in United States intelligence.

Snowden was shown at the Toronto International Film Festival in early September 2016 and its wide theatrical release was September 16, 2016. The official runtime is 134 minutes.

Watch the official trailer here:

Irrational Man – Woody Allen

Irrational Man starring Joaquin Phoenix, Emma Stone, and Parker Posey.

While not quite up to par in terms of his recent works (Magic in the Moonlight, the Oscar-winning Blue Jasmine, and Midnight in Paris) Woody Allen‘s Irrational Man still manages to be moderately amusing and light in a way that only fans of the Director/Writer will appreciate. This movie in particular will not likely appeal to as many people as Woody Allen’s other films of the last decade. Starring Joaquin Phoenix in the title role as Abe Lucas, the disillusioned alcoholic and mopey philosophy professor, and Emma Stone as Jill, the philosophy student inexplicably drawn to him, Irrational Man follows their friendship and Abe’s odd journey to finding a reason to keep living.

Prior to discovering his purpose in life, Abe was living a drunken existence without meaning (or sex). He was once an accomplished writer, philosopher, and philanthropist but lost his way when he realized he would never be able to bring real change to the world.  When he starts to focus on changing the world for one person, his outlook immediately changes and he begins an elaborate plan to execute the good deed. While he sees his tasks as completely rational, from the outside world it is completely the opposite, hence the name of the film. The concepts in Irrational Man are both light and dark, which is typical of a Woody Allen film

The film is just over an hour and a half, which makes it a quick watch by today’s standards. It didn’t “drag on” and while the ending may leave you a bit stunned (but not entirely disappointed), Irrational Man doesn’t leave you with any lingering feelings towards it, good or bad. It’s not likely to be a film you will watch again, but it’s also not something that will make you angry for wasting your precious time.

Irrational Man originally premiered at the Cannes Film Festival in 2015 and saw a wider release in August 2015. The majority of the box office totals ($27M) came from the foreign market

Watch the official trailer here:

 

 

The Lobster – Yorgos Lanthimos

The Lobster starring Colin Farrell, John C. Reilly,Ben Whishaw, and Rachel Weisz Photo Credit: Despina Spyrou/A24

The Lobster starring Colin Farrell, John C. Reilly,Ben Whishaw, and Rachel Weisz
Photo Credit: Despina Spyrou/A24

In the eyes of movie critics, The Lobster is a marvel, it’s both hilarious and thought-provoking; to the average movie-goer who is unacquainted with the strangeness of film festival movies, The Lobster can be summed up with one word: weird. Depending on your preference when it comes to movies, this can be either good or bad. In a dystopian state, Colin Farrell plays David, a man trying to find a mate within 45 days lest he be turned into the animal of his choosing – in this case, a lobster. The movie is just as strange as it sounds and the only saving grace is that the premise and the characters are so odd and so serious, that you can’t help but laugh at the peculiarity of it all. The Lobster is both a drama and a dark comedy. All lines are delivered dead-pan (there is no such thing as a smirk or a smile) and the supporting cast of John C. Reilly, Rachel Weisz, Léa Seydoux, and Ben Whishaw help to propel the film toward its even stranger second-half.

While it didn’t win the Palme D’Or at the 2015 Cannes Film Festival (the highest prize awarded at the festival), it did win the third-most prestigious prize, the Jury Prize. Unfortunately, this puts The Lobster in the company of films the average person has never even heard of. Historically, only a small number of films that do well at prestigious film festivals such as the ones in Cannes and Toronto  become Oscar contenders with wide theatre audiences and big box office numbers. The Lobster isn’t likely to be one of those given a wide release, but it may get some love come awards season, given the interesting performance by Colin Farrell. Forty pounds heavier and sporting a thick moustache and generic haircut, Colin Farrell is impressive as the defeated, droopy, un-charismatic David.

A movie like The Lobster can only really be recommended to those who appreciate two hours of really dark humour, artistic camerawork, and a uniquely strange plot.  The style is not unlike Wes Anderson (The Royal Tenenbaums, Moonrise Kingdom), but in this case it is even less mainstream and the comedy in The Lobster isn’t exactly “obvious”. Those who truly “get it” will likely find it to be a brilliant, witty, and unconventional satire unlike any other.

Whether The Lobster is just a quirky film with quirky characters or a deeper, social commentary on the pressures of being single and the ludicrousness of applying rules and systems where they do not belong, is entirely up to the viewer. One thing is for certain, though, you’ve never seen anything like it.

The Lobster can now be rented or purchased through Apple.

Watch the official trailer here:

Eye in the Sky – Gavin Hood

Eye in the Sky starring Helen Mirren, Alan Rickman, and Aaron Paul. Photo Credit:

Eye in the Sky starring Helen Mirren, Alan Rickman, and Aaron Paul.
Photo Credit: Keith Bernstein/Bleecker Street

To strike or not to strike, that is the big question. Eye in the Sky is a thriller that puts both the characters and the audience in an uncomfortable position regarding a seemingly simple drone strike. A group of well-known terrorists are meeting in a house in an inaccessible area and are gearing up for an activity that involves a couple suicide vests, the answer here is easy – take them out.

The colonel in charge of setting up the mission in the friendly country of Kenya (Helen Mirren) has been tracking a British born terrorist for years and finally has the ability to take her out, along with a group of other terrorists, including a new American recruit. When the mission takes an unexpected turn from “capture” to “kill”, things get a little more complicated when a young girl wanders into the kill zone. The film shows the various government officials and their advisers (Alan Rickman, Iain Glen), the drone pilot (Aaron Paul), and the local ground team (Barkhad Abdi) struggling with the decision to risk the little girl’s life for the greater good.

For the American government and the British colonel, the presence of the little girl does not change anything; the suicide bombers are likely going to endanger or kill a much larger population in the very near future, so it is best to fire the missile and contain the situation. The others are more worried about the moral and political consequences of murdering a little girl in a friendly country. Eye in the Sky works you into a panic because time is constantly running out, the decision has to be made; the trouble is, no one wants to be the one to make the decision. It is undoubtedly a dark subject, but echoes of Kubrick’s satirical Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb work their way in as frustrations and the passing of the buck border on ridiculous. It is a nail-biting, frustrating, and darkly amusing film that most people would enjoy, as long as they are prepared to feel drained and little guilty afterwards.

Helen Mirren and Alan Rickman (in his final performance before his death) are the veterans, their characters know what needs to be done and they struggle to stress the need for urgency. Their combined talent as actors help to convey the utter  preposterousness of the situation, which often results in a few snickers from the audience. Aaron Paul delivers a great performance as the drone pilot faced with potentially killing an innocent bystander, and ultimately the one who will have to live with the blood on his hands – even though he is safe in Las Vegas, thousands of miles away from the target. Eye in the Sky is Barkhad Abdi’s first movie after his oscar-nominated performance in Captain Phillips and he nails the small-but-important role as the critical man on the ground in Nairobi.

It is a pretty tense 102 minutes and Eye in the Sky takes advantage of every one of them. It is ultimately the perfect length for a movie like this and Gavin Hood (Tsotsi) should be applauded for smoothly showing the story from multiple points of view. You will not leave satisfied with the end result, but that is the whole point. Eye in the Sky should spark a much bigger discussion: What would you do?

Drone strikes are  certainly the future of modern warfare and have already been used successfully (and unsuccessfully) overseas. There’s always the debate of the ethicality of being able to  wage war from the comfort and darkness of our military bases and boardrooms, and killing multiple people by the push of a button thousands of miles away. Light and reality are conveniently always on the other side of the door. In the end, Eye in the Sky makes this connection with precision.

Eye in the Sky was released in theatres April 1, 2016 and showtimes can still be found in a select few theatres in many cities.

Watch the official trailer here:

The Jungle Book (2016) – Jon Favreau

The Jungle Book (2016) starring Neel Sethi, Bill Murray, and Ben Kingsley.
Photo Credit: Disney

The Jungle Book will make you feel like a kid again and make you believe in the fantastical, even if just for a couple of hours. You will see talking animals and will never think twice, you will see a young boy running through the jungle, hopping through trees, and you will never balk.  Nothing could be more real.

Despite what your eyes and heart may think, Jon Favreau‘s big budget Disney movie was filmed entirely in an L.A. studio. The only “real” element of The Jungle Book is Mowgli, played by newcomer Neel Sethi in his Hollywood debut. And what a debut! The fact that he was interacting with hand puppets and a blue screen most of the time is simply astonishing, especially for a 12-year old with no acting experience. He certainly holds his own as the star of the movie and looks every bit the part of Mowgli, the young boy raised by wolves in the thick of the jungle.

The all-star cast providing the voices for the animals includes: Bill Murray (Baloo), Ben Kingsley (Bagheera), Idris Elba (Shere Khan), Christopher Walken (King Louie), Lupita Nyong’o (Raksha), and Scarlett Johansson (Kaa). Each actor was absolutely perfect for their character and brought them, literally, to life in such a way that did justice to the original movie. You might be one of the lucky ones who giggles like a child when Bill Murray breaks into a subdued version of “The Bare Necessities” and Christopher Walken sings “I Wanna Be Like You” in his universally recognizable voice. It was a necessary risk to add a couple of the original musical numbers and it paid off, especially for the adults who were hoping to hear at least a couple notes.

There’s no doubt that The Jungle Book will appeal to almost everybody, from young to old; from a child who has never seen The Jungle Book (1967) to the adult who remembers seeing it in theatres. The only warning is that some scenes might be too intense or scary for really young children, and if you’re terrified of snakes you might want to close your eyes when you hear Scarlett Johansson’s husky voice.

One thing is for certain, Jon Favreau has an immense appreciation and respect for both the 1967 Disney classic and Rudyard Kipling’s stories; and it shows. The Jungle Book is 21st century magic.

The Jungle Book has grossed nearly $800M worldwide since it’s release on April 15, 2016.

Watch the official trailer here:

Watch this truly remarkable behind the scenes featurette:

Room – Lenny Abrahamson

Room starring Brie Larson and Jacob Tremblay.
Photo Credit: George Kraychyk/A24 Films

Lenny Abrahamson is an Irishman you’ve probably never heard of before, but you’ll be hearing a lot more of him after this year. With only 4 other feature films under his belt (none that would have played outside of film festivals), Lenny Abrahamson has done something extraordinary with Room. This little film won the Grolsch People’s Choice Award at the Toronto International Film Festival and had an audience of critics and movie lovers on their feet applauding with fresh tears in their eyes. Since then, it has been one of the most talked about movies to snag three Oscars nominations for movies in 2015.

The majority of the movie is a mother and young son confined to a small room, with very minimal supplies and not much hope for a better future. Brie Larson puts in a powerful performance as the young mother who was kidnapped as a teenager and repeatedly raped by her captor while she was forced to live in a small space with a few amenities. Her son Jack, played by Canadian newcomer Jacob Tremblay, has lived his entire life without seeing the outdoors, other than through a small skylight. His reality is “Room” – the generic name they have given their tiny home; not the room, not a room, but just simply Room.

Instead of a completely devastating film, what you get with Room is a bit of a roller coaster ride. At first you just watch them live their day-to-day life and begin to understand their relationship and Jack’s lack of understanding of what life is really like outside. When they decide to escape, you hold your breath, hope they succeed, and likely hold back some tears. As expected, Jack handles their homecoming and his new reality better than his Mom, but it is a slow process as he adjusts to the other people in his life. It is difficult to watch the young mother struggle with her emotions, the unwelcome fame, and with her parents – who are also having a tough time – but the whole thing is incredibly intriguing. At the back of your mind is always the thought that this has actually happened to people, so coupling that thought with the fact that the acting is absolutely flawless, you truly feel for the characters in the movie. Supporting cast includes Joan Allen (The Bourne Series, The Upside of Anger, The Notebook) and William H. Macy (Fargo, The Lincoln Lawyer, Wild Hogs).

Brie Larson (Don Jon, 21 Jump Street) deservingly won both the Golden Globe and the Academy Award for Best Actress and it’s a real shame that Jacob Tremblay did not receive an acting nomination because he was the other half of the movie and essentially made her performance better. Seeing such range from an 8-year old is incredible and he was certainly more deserving than the winner of Best Supporting Actor category in 2016 (Mark Rylance) and at the very least on par with the other nominees (Christian Bale, Tom Hardy, Mark Ruffalo, Sylvester Stallone).

Room is both unforgettable and rewarding. You may not watch it more than once, but you’ll be better for having seen it. It is based on the book “Room” by Irish-Canadian author Emma Donoghue.

Room was shown at the Toronto International Film Festival in September 2015 and was released to an increasing number of theatres in Canada and the U.S from October 2015 to January 2016.

Watch the official trailer for Room here:

Spotlight – Tom McCarthy

Spotlight starring Michael Keaton, Mark Ruffalo, and Rachel McAdams. Photo Credit: Kerry Hayes

Spotlight starring Michael Keaton, Mark Ruffalo, and Rachel McAdams.
Photo Credit: Kerry Hayes

At this point most if us know the sex abuse stories, about priests taking advantage of young, scared, impressionable children. It’s both disgusting and shocking and not really something we want to think about. Spotlight puts you at the front of the initial investigation by The Boston Globe that brought the news of this terrible cover-up by the Catholic Church to light in the early 2000’s. The investigative team for the Globe, called “Spotlight” earned the paper a Pulitzer Prize for Public Service in  2003. One can only imagine how disturbing this information would have been to come across, especially knowing that the evidence and accusations against the Catholic Church had been around for decades. Spotlight introduces you to the team that was dedicated to uncovering the story and what they went through emotionally trying to piece it all together. The result is a disturbing, yet professional, film that honours the investigators and doesn’t glorify anything. It never undermines the importance of the truth and its responsibility to the audience. It’s no mistake that Spotlight has walked away with six Academy Award nominations including Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Original Screenplay.

Just as the investigative team works together and no one tries to outshine the other, the cast of Spotlight is so well-balanced that it’s difficult to say whose performance was better because they were all gripping. However, both Mark Ruffalo (The Avengers, Foxcatcher) and Rachel McAdams (Southpaw, About Time) showed the most emotional range and both have been nominated for Best Supporting Actor Oscars.  Michael Keaton, who received his first Oscar nomination for Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) last year is great as the veteran manager of the “Spotlight” team who just wants to “get it right”. Liev Schreiber (Salt, X-Men Origins: Wolverine) deserves some credit for his wonderful (and underplayed) portrayal of the outsider who has just stepped in as editor of The Boston Globe; he doesn’t say much, but his direct delivery can be quite amusing. Finally, Stanley Tucci (The Hunger Games, Julie & Julia, The Lovely Bones) is perfection as the untrusting, but dedicated lawyer just trying to do the right thing no matter the cost.

Despite its heavy topic, Spotlight isn’t without humour; but it is completely appropriate and timed just right to help lighten the mood when it is most needed. The ending is not comforting, nor should it be, but you are left satisfied that the journalists did their jobs and that they did it right. The history of the abuse was finally public knowledge that could not, and would not, be ignored any longer.

What actor-turned-director Tom McCarthy (now with 3 Oscar nominations) has done here should be admired. Many would think it a big risk to make a movie about this delicate topic. Spotlight was perfectly unshowy and remained sensitive to the material, all while keeping the audience absorbed in the characters and their main goal. The final punch, the statistics surrounding the sex abuse, will leave you shaking your head and demanding justice. It’s exactly the reaction you should have. Spotlight has done its job.

Spotlight had a limited released in the USA and Canada in November 2015. It has been released in most other countries since January/February 2016.

Update: Spotlight won the Academy Award for BEST PICTURE

Watch the trailer here:

The Revenant – Alejandro G. Iñárritu

The Revenant starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Tom Hardy. Photo Credit: Everett/Rex/Shutterstock

The Revenant starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Tom Hardy, and Domhnall Gleeson.
Photo Credit: Everett/Rex/Shutterstock

This is a movie about pain – mental and physical pain.  Leonardo DiCaprio will make you feel every bit of suffering endured by his character, Hugh Glass, in The Revenant, Alejandro Iñárritu‘s latest 156 min tour de force. If gore and death make you at all squeamish, this is not the movie for you. Arrows cutting through flesh, burning bodies, claws ripping through skin and crushing bone, the disembowelment of a horse, these are just a few things that might turn a lot of people off. But if you can handle it, you’re in for a film experience that doesn’t come around very often.

Fresh off of his Best Picture and Best Director win at the Oscars last year for Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance), Alejandro Iñárritu has directed and written yet another masterpiece, although arguably less, shall we say, odd. The Revenant takes place in the early 19th century American wilderness and tells the (embellished) true story of Hugh Glass, a renowned fur-trapper who was left for dead by the men he was guiding after he was viciously mauled by a bear. The majority of the movie is watching him struggle to survive and watching him try to make his way back to the camp to face the man who ultimately made the decision to leave him (Tom Hardy).

From the group’s first ambush by natives, it’s clear that there will be a significant amount of violence throughout the movie. The scene with the bear is by far the most gruesome and realistic attack by a wild animal ever to be shown on screen; it just proves that there is absolutely no holding back in The Revenant. The horror stories from the set, from the freezing temperatures to the struggles to find the right setting and only being able to shoot an hour a day in order to get the ideal natural lighting, shows the director’s passion and desire to get things perfect. Whether or not you can stomach the brutal violence, there is no denying the fact that it is a visually stunning film. It’s as real as it’s going to get for a movie filmed in this age of technology.

There are incredibly strong performances in The Revenant, led of course by Leonardo DiCaprio in one of his most outstanding immersions into a character to date. This is what acting is. Every moment is a struggle for Hugh Glass and Leo makes sure the audience struggles with him every step of the way. Even though they aren’t getting as much credit as Leo, Tom Hardy and Domhnall Gleeson are just as convincing, albeit with smaller roles (Tom Hardy also has a nomination for Best Supporting Actor). For a movie just over 2.5 hours, there isn’t much dialogue (especially for Leo) but nature and the subtle soundtrack play such strong parts that it doesn’t really matter. What Alejandro Iñárritu has done with this film is nothing short of spectacular. To get the audience to actually feel cold (and a little sore) when leaving the theatre is not an easy feat, and he certainly did his job with the help of the cast.

Nominated for 12 (of 14) Oscars, The Revenant will certainly walk away with a number of wins on February 29th – and it would be an utter travesty if Leonardo DiCaprio did not win Best Actor.

The Revenant saw a limited release in the U.S. at the end of December 2015 and has had a steady theatrical rollout from January 2016 through to the end of February 2016.

Update: The Revenant won Academy Awards for BEST ACTOR, BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY,  and BEST DIRECTOR

Water the official trailer here: