Iñárritu and DiCaprio reach for transcendence, but The Revenant is a slog
There’s a gripping 90-minute survival thriller buried somewhere within The Revenant’s 156 minutes, but Alejandro González Iñárritu was never going to make that movie. His film has flashes of brilliance, notably the stunningly effective bear attack that leaves Hugh Glass (DiCaprio) incapacitated, and the whole film is elevated by Emmanuel Lubezki’s typically spellbinding natural-light cinematography, but the film just grinds the viewer down. Overburdened by flashbacks and symbolic inserts, The Revenant becomes a real slog in its second hour, with Iñárritu’s heavy-handed direction ensuring that what should be poetic and transcendent instead feels ponderous and self-regarding.
DiCaprio suffers manfully in the lead role, but there’s only so much he can do with this limited character, and instead it’s supporting players like Tom Hardy and Will Poulter who draw the eye and leave us wanting more. In the final stretches of the film we are supposed to feel the presence of God, but as DiCaprio’s desperate breathing fogs up the camera, we only feel the presence of the director. For Alejandro González Iñárritu, maybe that amounts to the same thing. [Philip Concannon]