What Critics Are Saying About The Revenant

Photo: Twentieth Century Fox

Reviews are rolling in for the ice-cold revenge western, The Revenant. The film, about a 1820s explorer who sets out on the frigid American frontier to seek revenge on the fur-trapper crew that buried him alive, is out December 25 — just in time for Christmas! Take a break from speculating about bear rape long enough read what the critics are saying about the movie for which Leo DiCaprio won't win an Oscar.

"In all these films, the virtuosity of the storytelling can’t quite disguise a leadenness and lack of modulation that suggest Iñárritu’s chief talent is for bludgeoning his audience — sometimes artfully, sometimes merely artily — into submission. The final reckoning between Glass and Fitzgerald is grippingly staged, and audiences hoping to see payback exacted in full will find satisfaction. But here and elsewhere, Lubezki’s camera, with its creeping, darting movements and stealthy 360-degree turns, doesn’t observe the action so much as instigate it. The long-take action sequences begin to feel almost sadistic in their pre-planning. Developments that should be shocking instead take on an air of grinding predictability." — Justin Chang, Variety

"Iñárritu compensates for the inherent silliness of the premise by making the film more about the sensory experience than the story. [...] But while the style may outpace the substance, that doesn't make the style any less magnificent. And when it comes to sheer customer satisfaction, The Revenant checks nearly every box, up to and including the man vs. wild throwdown. It just makes a jarring, memorable statement about how often the wild is likely to win that uneven fight." — Tasha Robinson, The Verge

"Some might argue this is over-the-top filmmaking, that Iñárritu and DiCaprio are going big for Oscar’s sake, confusing blood and sweat for art and performance, but that’s likely not the goal of this film. Rather, it appears that The Revenant is more invested in shattering today’s style of filmmaking by committing to a brand of realism that’s not exactly unprecedented, but all too often ignored in lieu of conventional (and safer) means. But isn’t that what Iñárritu argued for last year with Birdman? Didn’t he bite his thumb at the plastic blockbusters? Rail against the safe Hollywood system? The Revenant says to hell with all of that." — Michael Roffman, Consequence of Sound 

"The new movie seethes revenge. It comes down to two animals trying to hack each other to death, in a scene of such protracted excess, all you can do is laugh. Iñárritu's brand of intensity allows for zero emotional complexity. This is why even his better films have a hard time getting over the hump. It's hard to respond completely to a filmmaker who hits every beat, every note, with the same bug-eyed determination." — Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune 

"But what is so distinctive about this Iñárritu picture is its unitary control and its fluency: no matter how extended, the film’s tense story is under the director’s complete control and he unspools great meandering, bravura travelling shots to tell it: not dissimilar, in some ways, to his previous picture, Birdman. The movie is as thrilling and painful as a sheet of ice held to the skin." — Peter Bradshaw, The Gaurdian

"It’s a relatively compelling revenge movie, with the presumption that the strong cast, peerless production values, and ponderous presentation will automatically qualify as something akin to higher art. Yes, it offers a grim pictorial of life during those harsh uncompromising times, but at this point that’s pretty standard for period pictures which excel in offering ‘Are you glad you weren’t alive then?’ tours. Now maybe that’s a byproduct of the whole Oscar season, where we judge movies not just on if they are good but also in terms of their worth as Oscar contenders and their weight as allegedly among the year’s best movies. So when I say that The Revenant is not a great movie does not mean that it’s not a good movie. It’s an occasionally overpowering cinematic experience and I would advise you to see it on the biggest screen available while sitting as close to the screen as you can comfortably manage. While all of the IMAX screens will be playing Star Wars, I do hope some theaters allot their PLF auditoriums for this one for its nationwide release next January." — Scott Mendelson, Forbes

"The bearded DiCaprio, long an underrated physical actor, throws himself so completely into Glass’s never-give-up struggle that his scarred wheezes — much like Timothy Spall’s grunts in ‘Mr. Turner’ — become their own language of sorts. (There’s not a lot of talking to do when no one’s around most of the time.) He’s so convincing as a bear-attack victim driven to animalistic ends that you’ll believe he’d set his own throat on fire with gunpowder to cauterize a wound or, conversely, stick out his tongue to catch a snowflake in a rare moment of restful levity with helpful Indian Hikuc (Arthur Redcloud) whose path he crosses. DiCaprio’s ably matched by Hardy, turning in another of his gristly portraits of wild-eyed ruthlessness." — Robert Abele, The Wrap

"The very different settings may disguise the fact, but the recent film The Revenant actually resembles a great deal is Gravity, the outer space smash directed by Iñárritu’s friend and colleague Alfonso Cuaron. Both are solitary survival stories set in deeply inhospitable environments where human beings cannot survive without the aid of man-made equipment, not to mention uncanny resourcefulness. Both are projects dependent upon the long-term commitment and charisma of a top star to get them made, the advances in special visual effects to make them seamlessly credible and the brilliance of cinematographer Lubezki to provide the highest level of visual astonishment. Both projects were big gambles even for filmmakers as accomplished as these two to take on. And they both pulled them off." — Todd McCarthy, The Hollywood Reporter

"The Revenant marks the rare instance of a brilliantly directed half-baked movie. Director Alejandro G. Iñárritu's highly anticipated followup to Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) trades that movie's ironic wit for a bloody revenge tale that's self-serious and absurd at once, pitting top-notch craft with muddled ideas." — Eric Kohn, IndieWire