By Ben L.
In The Revenant, Leonardo DiCaprio gets mauled by a bear with such ferocity, you almost forget that the 200kg grizzly isn’t real, thanks to the tremendous performance by a stuntman in a Smurf costume.
The five-minute scene, where the camera never leaves the actor for one gruesome continuous take, leaves the frontiersman with deep cuts, broken bones and mortal wounds, and the audience clenching their toes and squirming in their seats throughout the bloody ordeal.
It is the most disturbing scene in the movie, and comes shortly after another brutal sequence early in the film where DiCaprio’s group comes under the savage attack of a native American tribe. Arrows puncture eyeballs, tear hearts and maim fleeing men. You know it’s going to be a ruthless battle, but not this vicious until the first man receives an arrow to the
knee eye socket.
Scenes of bloodied flesh leave the audience breathless, as do the picturesque landscapes of Canada representing the mountains, forests and rivers of 19th Century Louisiana Purchase. And then there’s DiCaprio’s acting, where he breathes the deepest and hardest he’s ever done as he battles pain and cold to get his name on the Oscar nominee list and possibly, the winner’s podium. He is on course to end his winless streak at the Dolby Theatre after winning 14 other Best Actor awards elsewhere, most recently picking up a BAFTA – a positive foreshadowing of what’s to come this Sunday night.
But I cannot help but feel The Revenant is riding on its lead actor’s coattails for “Best Picture” accolades. It tries to appeal to our emotions and sympathy for a bereaved father, but revenge seems to overshadow whatever little love that is implied through dreamy sequences and voiceovers. DiCaprio’s character speaks the most lines of dialogue to his son in a feisty chastising session, and that pretty much sums up the hollow father-son relationship that serves as the motivation for the film’s plot. What ensues is a slow, miserable solo performance of perseverance and defying odds set against a stunning backdrop.
This makes The Revenant feel like an angry, bloodstained sequel to 2011’s The Tree of Life by Terrence Malick, especially since both movies share the same cinematographer. The Academy is no stranger to courting controversy in picking the best film of the year, but to present the award to Alejandro G. Inarrritu on Sunday night would be to tip a hat to beautifully choreographed masochism.
That’s all there is to The Revenant really – a gorgeous painting of winter revenge. Or a 19th-Century retelling of John Wick.
Speaking of revenge, 24 hours after watching the six-time Oscar nominee lying down in different places I was in a different cinema watching another man with a vengeance, albeit one who doesn’t take himself too seriously and possibly too self-aware of his place on the silver screen.
Deadpool kickstarts this year’s fantastic comic book movie season, with five more coming over the next few months, and I’m pleased to report that it has certainly lived up to its hype. It is not the best comic book movie, but it is by far one of the most entertaining yet. If you are still undecided on which violent film to watch, you won’t regret picking the immortal super
hero over baby-faced man with an undying will to kill.
Ryan Reynolds had said that Deadpool has always been his passion project, and his enthusiasm clearly shows. He’s a natural as a show-off and goof who cracks as many pop culture jokes as the enemies he decapitates – he even manages to slide in a reference to himself being voted “sexiest man alive”. With the R-rating that the producers fought so hard to keep, gore is as vital a character as Deadpool’s sense of humour. It is no-holds-barred action comprising splitting open skulls with bullets and slicing ribcages like knife through butter, but somehow the film doesn’t feel as gut-wrenching as it should, perhaps because Reynolds is able to pull out a katana with one hand and a joke with the other.
Most importantly, he wants you to have a good time watching his film and forget the travesty that was X-Men Origins: Wolverine, which turned the merc with a mouth into a completely unrecognisable mute freak.
Problem is, there is this niggling feeling that Reynolds and the team are trying just a little too hard to please fans. Deadpool at times feels so bogged down by the antihero’s backstory – they really want you to forget the previous incarnation of the character – that the actual present-day storyline is so short and ends in an unmemorable, unsatisfying fashion, ironically borderlining X-Men Origins-esque. At times, it also feels as though Deadpool desperately wants you to like him so much that the rest of the cast, with the exception of Morena Baccarin, get sidelined. Ajax and Angel Dust are villains thrilling to watch like two lamp posts standing in the way of Deadpool’s shenanigans, while the two X-Men serve no other purpose than to remind unaware audiences that this movie is not part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
You could almost hear Wade Wilson shout to the audience: “It’s all about me in this movie – it’s my movie! Who gives a f@#& about everyone else anyway?”
Remember the ‘leaked’ CGI test footage of the highway action sequence from two years ago that set the wheels for the film’s production in motion? That has been expanded to a big-screen set-piece, and it’s a good thing. The bad? With clever interspersing of flashback sequences, it is actually one of only three main action sequences and already takes up one-third of the entire film. That’s too few and kind of a cheat, even by comic book movie standards.
Perhaps Deadpool should instead be enjoyed as the romantic comedy that it was marketed to be.
Still, at least it did not flop like many thought it would, given the character’s lack of mainstream appeal compared to other comic book characters. Its opening weekend earnings rank 7th on the all-time comic book movie list, beating Tobey Maguire and Henry Cavill in their superhero debuts. A sequel has already been greenlit, which ensures that Ryan Reynolds doesn’t have to look for a new superhero role to save his movie career. He’s already found his calling – to make pain and suffering entertaining.
For both The Revenant and Deadpool.