Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

The Revenant (2015)

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Image rights belong to New Regency Picture, RatPac-Dune Entertainment, Regency Enterprises and 20th Century Fox

The Revenant – Film Review

Cast: Leonardo DiCaprio, Tom Hardy, Domhnall Gleeson, Will Poulter

Director: Alejandro González Iñárritu

Synopsis: When a fur trapper is viciously attacked by a bear and left for dead by his men, he sets out on a quest for revenge against them who left him to die.

Review: From a story about a man who was a washed up superhero trying to put on a Broadway play in one year, to a chilling tale of revenge for another man in the 1820s, it is quite the contrast for Mexican director Alejandro González Iñárritu. His 2014 effort Birdman for all its eccentricities, won the director three Academy Awards. Yet he surpasses himself with this true story, about one man’s fight for both survival and vengeance in equal measure, and with a whopping total of twelve Academy Award nominations received, it makes what has been a well documented troubled, delayed and hellish shoot all the more worth it, especially as it is almost certain to take home a few golden statues this year.

This frighteningly true story focuses on DiCaprio’s Hugh Glass who is part of a fur trapping expedition in the USA and after being brutally attacked by a bear protecting her cubs, he’s left behind principally by John Fitzgerald (Tom Hardy) and left to die, except he doesn’t die, and after personal tragedy, he’s now on an angry quest for revenge, as well as a difficult struggle to survive the severe force of nature, that is well, nature. The bitter cold that the characters find themselves in almost filters its way through the audience as the incredible cinematography makes the audience feel as if they are in this perilous and horrendous situation that Glass in particular finds himself in. It’s a chilling 156 minute tale.

The aforementioned cinematography is simply flawless, and is almost certain to bag a hat-trick of Oscars for DP Emmanuel Lubezki after winning for Gravity and Birdman. The decision to use natural lighting was a masterstroke, giving a real look of authenticity and the film is visually magnificent with more than a handful of spectacular shots that will take your breath away. It is without a doubt one of the most visually impressive movies that has ever been made.

Through all the stunning cinematography, there are a handful of really unpleasant and brutal scenes, namely the bear scene. It is a tremendous visual achievement, and is gripping to watch, but also equally disturbingly realistic and gory. The performances from all of the cast are all excellent but the two that stand out by far are those of Tom Hardy and Leo DiCaprio, the latter of whom really threw himself into the role, to the point where he must have got hypothermia on several occasions.

You watch with suspense as he crawls across the landscape, driven by a fierce desire for revenge and the sheer will to survive against the uncompromising force that is nature. You root for him and you want him to succeed and again, it could be the role that finally lands DiCaprio the Oscar at the sixth time of asking, and also gives Hardy a decent shout at getting his first statue.

Hardy is also equally mesmerising as the film’s villain, yet there were times when he was very difficult to understand, often reverting to his sort of trademark mumble. Will Poulter and Domhnall Gleeson, who has had quite the year after Ex Machina and Star Wars, are also tremendous. Yet this is the DiCaprio show, and he totally owns it.

The violence on show here is pretty intense and certainly not for the faint of heart, yet for all the production problems, rebellion by the crew, and the delays to the shoot, which forced Hardy to drop out of this year’s Suicide Squad. Their efforts paid off, in a big way, with an equally tremendous score to go with it. It is uncompromising, brutal, and one of the best movies of not only the past twelve months, but this decade and one of the most riveting pieces of cinema you will ever watch.

Visually magnificent, with tremendous performances from DiCaprio and Hardy in particular,  this is an incredible film-making achievement and is not to be missed. 

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Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

Birdman (2014)

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Image rights belong to Stephen Mirrione Production companies, Regency Enterprises, New Regency Productions, M Productions, Le Grisbi Productions, TSG Entertainment, Worldview Entertainment, Fox Searchlight Pictures

Birdman – Film Review 

Cast: Michael Keaton, Emma Stone, Edward Norton, Zach Galifianakis, Andrea Riseborough, Amy Ryan, Naomi Watts

Director:  Alejandro González Iñárritu

Synopsis: When a former Hollywood actor seeks to re-establish his stagnating career in the form of a Broadway play, all sorts of things start to go wrong as he battles with family, career troubles and snobby critics…

Review: When hearing of the title of this film, you could be forgiven for thinking this is yet another Hollywood film about superheroes to go along with the domination of Marvel and DC films that we have witnessed in recent years . Yet you would be mistaken (sort of.) This is not an action movie based on a man with extraordinary powers. Instead this story finds itself depicting former Hollywood actor Riggan Thomson (Keaton) the once legendary star of the Birdman superhero franchise, who’s seeking to re-establish himself in the entertainment business via a Broadway adaptation of Raymond Carver’s play What We Talk About When We Talk About Love.

He used to be all about the big bucks and the superhero genre, but not anymore. Yet his efforts are encountering road block after road block, with things going spectacularly wrong. The film has so much to say about superhero movies, actors, critics, life and modern technology among many other things.  Through a wonderful screenplay by Iñárritu, Nicolás Giacobone, Alexander Dinelaris and Armando Bo, the messages on the plethora of topics talked about in the film are rammed home in a way that really gets the audience thinking long and hard about who they are and where they stand in society.

Sniping at real life Hollywood events such as Robert Downey Jr in the Iron Man franchise, Ryan Gosling and Jeremy Renner. He sneers vehemently at the former, or rather his somewhat wacky alter ego does, “that clown doesn’t have half your talent” snarls the Birdman with such strong disdain. The contempt for the state of the modern movie industry he has is raw and although many modern superhero films are fantastic pieces of cinema loved by audiences the world over, the audience almost always connects with our lead man and his wing wearing alter ego. It delves deep into art, and what is art, how good an actor are you if you make over-the-top superhero movies? Or are you a better actor if you choose those smaller, not-so-big budget roles?

Michael Keaton, once the wearer of the great cape and cowl of the Batman, is on top form in a role that finally landed him his first Oscar nomination. His performance is invigorating and refreshing, like a phoenix rising from the ashes of what was once a stagnating career. Edward Norton, likewise is equally fascinating to watch. A method actor who really gets into the part he plays, in more ways than one. His back and forth with Keaton is some of the most enthralling dialogue that emerged from cinema in 2014. With two excellent male performances, one Emma Stone fights the ladies corner, and she definitely more than holds her own against these two accomplished actors, giving the performance of her career. The other key cast were all equally excellent in their roles, including a remarkably more laid back turn from Hangover funny man Zach Galifianakis. Keaton, Norton and Stone were well deserving of their nominations, with Stone arguably the most unlucky to lose out.

Visually, the film is extremely engaging and in many ways, revolutionary as it is made to look as if it is one single shot. The cinematography by Emmanuel Lubezki is magnificent, following on from his magnificent work on the Oscar winning Gravity. Lubezki is again on form here, delivering another visual sensation, and deservedly added another Oscar on top of the one he bagged for Alfonso Cuaron’s space drama. Evocative and incredible imagery are packed throughout the two hour run time. There are more than a few scenes that will get your mind racing and leave you breathless with the incredible technical skill that is on show.

The theatre setting would make the audience believe that the film is taking a stance on the theatre industry, but the messages are without a doubt about the film industry. Birdman is a must see for any fans of film, as it is smart, intelligent, original and humorous. The script packs lots of punches and provides audiences with a film going experience like nothing else we have ever seen before, and may never see again.

Funny, original, emotional, visually mesmerising, acted and directed to perfection, Birdman takes flight and soars into cinematic history, and a significant amount of well deserved awards. 

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