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:

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Mad Max: Fury Road – George Miller

Mad Max: Fury Road Starring Tom Hardy and Charlize Theron. Photo Credit: Jasin Boland© 2015

Mad Max: Fury Road Starring Tom Hardy and Charlize Theron.
Photo Credit: Jasin Boland© 2015

If there’s one thing everyone who watches Mad Max: Fury Road can agree on, it’s the fact that it is the definition of “intense”.  It is two hours of absolute mayhem with only a couple scenes where you can actually breathe and relax your body… but only for a few seconds. There are countless post-apocalyptic car chases involving crazed, wide-eyed characters; plenty of hand-to-hand combat; a handful of models on the run; and a mostly-silent Tom Hardy caught in the middle of the chaos. Dialogue and backstory are limited, but the gist of the story isn’t that difficult to understand.

It’s a barren world consisting of mostly sand and heat and appears to be set far in Earth’s future after what one can only assume is some nuclear disaster. Those who have survived are struggling with day to day life and fighting over oil and water. The man villain, called Immortan Joe, is hoarding a large water supply and imprisoning women who have been untouched by deformity as his wives. When one of his best (Furiosa, played by Charlize Theron) decides to rebel, all hell breaks loose. The unlucky Max (Tom Hardy) is literally caught in the middle of the chase but teams up with Furiosa when his options run out. It becomes obvious that Max has some issues relating to whatever happened in his past, but we’ll have to wait for the sequel to learn more – and there will definitely be a sequel.

Thankfully for the younger generation, watching the original Mad Max trilogy from the 70’s and 80’s (Mad Max, The Road Warrior and Beyond the Thunderdome, all starring Mel Gibson) is not necessary; but given that the writing and directing is by the same man (George Miller), one can assume there are ties and similarities that would be appreciated by the crowd who liked the originals. Admittedly, sometimes it is difficult to understand what is going on and what the main villain is saying (think ‘Bane’ from The Dark Knight Rises), but in the end it doesn’t really matter. The action and cinematography are nothing short of spectacular and despite the general insanity going on on-screen, most of the stunts and action sequences seem ‘possible’ (with a few exceptions, of course). Unlike natural disaster movies that leave you rolling your eyes and saying, “Ya, right”, Max Mad: Fury Road will just leave you wide-eyed because it doesn’t give you time to think about anything else.

The general concept of the film, the ensuing madness, and the extreme violence (somehow it is only rated 14A in Canada) will not appeal to everyone;  but like it or not, it will still be an ‘experience’ you won’t be likely to forget.  Just keep in mind that the “Oh my God!” look on your face (eyes wide, eyebrows up, forehead crinkled) might lead to a few more botox injections down the road, so budget accordingly.

Mad Max: Fury Road was released on May 14, 2015 and is now playing in theatres where it has grossed well over $350M worldwide.

Update: Mad Max won Academy Awards for:
Best Achievement in Film Editing
Best Achievement in Costume Design
Best Achievement in Makeup and Hairstyling
Best Achievement in Sound Mixing
Best Achievement in Sound Editing
Best Achievement in Production Design

Watch the trailer:

The Drop – Michaël R. Roskam

The Drop starring the late James Gandolfini,  Tom Hardy, and Noomi Rapace

Dennis Lehane, the author of  Mystic River and Gone Baby Gone that were famously adapted into award-winning films with amazing ensemble casts, brings us another adaptation of one of his short stories called The Drop. Teaming up with Director Michaël R. Roskam, they deliver a film that in many ways has the same feel to it as those other crime dramas but is significantly less disturbing than the two mentioned above.

The film takes place in a gritty part of Brooklyn where the local watering hole doubles as the occasional “drop bar” for the city’s thugs and their money. Tom Hardy plays bartender “Bob” who just tries to keep his head down and his nose out of everyone’s business but his own. The late great James Gandolfini, in his final role before his unfortunate death, plays “Cousin Marv” the bar’s acting manager who now answers to some mean Chechens after losing ownership of the bar some years ago. Things start going wrong when the pair are robbed early on in the film, and the rest just follows from there.

There isn’t much to the film in terms of plot but it never feels that way. We follow Bob as he rescues a Pitbull puppy and takes on the responsibility of being a dog owner with the help of a woman played by Noomi Rapace (Prometheus, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo). As usual, Tom Hardy all but disappears into the character. He’s quiet, calculating, maybe a little naive, and yet it always seems like there’s something else hiding behind his sad puppy dog eyes and small smirk that makes a very rare appearance on screen. Noomi Rapace is equally as good as a woman with her own secrets.

It’s a slow-burning film but it never loses your interest as you try to piece everything together. The odd scene will actually generate some laughs, or at least some chuckles, and are mostly brought on by Bob’s tell-it-like-it-is attitude, which also makes him the only truly loveable character in the film, next to Rocco the puppy of course.

The Drop is a drama through and through but there is enough intrigue and there are enough moments that lighten the mood in order to sustain most viewers, even those who typically prefer more action to dialogue. It is possible, however, that some will find it a little too dull and seriously lacking in the shoot-em-up department. So those people looking for a lot of action and a true crime thriller will be a little disappointed but will likely still enjoy the film because as a viewer you really do want to find out where the story is going and how everything turns out for each character. Whether you notice it or not, you’re invested.