Sicario – A Review by Josh Hains

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“You are not a wolf, and this is the land of wolves.”

Sicario has been stuck in my mind since the opening sequence unfolded before my very eyes in theatres, in a manner so few films in my life ever have. Very few have ever been successful in leaving such a lasting stain on my mind. This film is like days-old dirt stuck under my fingernails, salt water swishing in my ears, the undying Sun burning in my eyes. It does not want to leave at all, it just wants to stay buried in these deep places I cannot reach. It is so dark, disquieting, and depressive in nature, and such a brutally violent, honest, and eerily realistic piece of cinema that quite honestly, made me want to shower after seeing it. I have not seen anything like it since The Counselor crept into theatres a couple years ago; Apocalypse Now springs to mind as another example. Sicario is ultimately a low-key, intimately orchestrated thriller that almost left me underwhelmed simply because it is not the big and bombastic flick one could assume it may be by the films trailers.

The score, repetitively pulsing throughout the film in the greatest way possible, chimes through the air with the ferocity of an explosion, then proceeds to crawl into your ear and make its way deep beneath the surface of your skin. As that music creeps toward your nerves, the suspense of any number of impeccable sequences, such as the infamous highway interaction, slowly turns your knuckles pearl white, puts the hairs on the back of your neck in standing position, and the gorgeous, stark cinematography lowers your jaw to the floor. A gunshot will crack against the wind, taking you by surprise as magnificently as the films twists, so deafeningly loud you almost experience a ringing sensation in the canals of your ear. The performances catch you off guard with their inherent subtleties and nuances, while the completely unexpected humour of a couple brief moments fills your lungs with welcomed laughter. The sheer brutality of the violence widens your eyes with fear, the popping of gunfire so realistic you just might think you are being shot at; murders so gruesome if you are of the weak stomached, your insides may churn at the sight of beheaded bodies, and heads exploding in bursts of crimson life force. But it is the journey by the characters into a near unparalleled descent into darkness from which there is no return, that will put a poisonous void inside the deepest caverns of your heart, and send cold shivers running down the length of your spinal column, disrupting the tranquility of your very soul. Sicario is a film that you’ll be unable to shake in any reasonable period of time.

The performances across the board are all great, from the itchy trigger fingered lowlife criminals to Emily Blunt’s naive agent Kate Macer, to Josh Brolin’s stern cowboy-ish possibly C.I.A. spook, though Benicio Del Toro’s quietly contemplative, brooding god of merciless death Alejandro is most likely to leave the strongest impression; he’s quite the wicked force of nature.

Any other year, Roger Deakins would deserve, and bear the potential of scoring an Oscar nod at the very least for his spellbinding cinematography that captures the smallest of dust particles to the true essence of night in such staggering detail one may shed tears in awe of the beauty, or simply find themselves speechless. While it likely is not as staggering as the work Emmanuel Lubezki has done with The Revenant (I have not had the pleasure of seeing that film just yet), Sicario still bolsters brilliantly concocted visuals from a true master of the craft.

In a crime film that follows the exploits of various law enforcement operatives systematically slaughtering cartel members left and right in an attempt to sever the head of the snake[so to speak] orchestrating cartel inflicted killings across America and Mexico, Sicario by films end feels like a hot-blooded rogue documentary with the ferocity of a screaming gunshot captured on camera by one of the agents, and not the silly exploitation movie it could have been in misguided hands. If one views it as such, you can clearly witness how blunt, honest, authentic, naturalistic, brutal, and precise this stellar film is. It surely is a stressful and powerfully overwhelming endurance test. It is assuredly an openly nihilistic (in the best way possible), unflinching examination of the thin grey line that separates wolves from sheep, and hunters from the hunted, with one hell of a bloodthirsty, tortured man in Alejandro dragging us blindly into a realm where darkness reaches out to darkness with battered hands and consumes its soul. And ours.

*This is a revised edition of a review I wrote on October 11th, 2015.

 

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SEAN PENN’S THE INDIAN RUNNER — A REVIEW BY NICK CLEMENT

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This is a very hard hitting film, and served as Sean Penn’s remarkable directorial debut. I’ve found merit in all of Penn’s efforts as a filmmaker (Into the Wild is likely my favorite of his works), but this has got to be one of the most intense and anguished films from a first time filmmaker, at least that I’ve seen. Curiously based on the song “Highway Patrolman” by Bruce Springsteen, the film is set in Nebraska and revolves around two very unique brothers, one a small-town deputy while the other has resorted to a life of crime. The lawman is played by the wonderful character actor David Morse, giving one of the very best performances of his supremely underrated career, while the criminal is essayed by an early-in-the-game Viggo Mortensen, who gives an incredible and deeply layered performance as a Vietnam veteran who can’t seem to pull his life together no matter how hard he tries. Released in 1991 to excellent critical support but nonexistent box office, the film has attained a cult following, and is one of those small, meditative pieces concerned more with mood and character than about plot and overt payoff.

Anthony B. Richmond’s cinematography stings with burnished elegance, and Jay Cassidy’s editing keeps the pace moving along despite the film possessing a certain slow burn quality. The melancholy musical score by Jack Nitzsche and David Lindley only helps to add to the somber atmosphere, with Penn never resting on his music to do any of the emotional heavy lifting; his actors were more than up to the task while Penn’s screenplay stings in all the proper places. This is a very heavy, dramatic film, with an ending that leans on impassioned family dynamics rather than right and wrong. A fantastic supporting cast comprised of Dennis Hopper, Benicio Del Toro, Valeria Golino, Patricia Arquette, Charles Bronson (quietly powerful), and Sandy Dennis in her final film role all have memorable bits in this tough and sad film, while Arquette’s character goes through one of the most believable child-births that I’ve ever seen captured on film. The Indian Runner is only available, at the moment, on DVD, but this title screams Criterion Collection or Twilight Time.

BERMAN & PULCINI’S 10,000 SAINTS — A REVIEW BY NICK CLEMENT

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10,000 Saints is a solid indie drama, taking familiar, coming of age material and spicing up the proceedings with some excellent performances from a deep cast, most notably Ethan Hawke and Hailee Steinfeld. Set in the 1980’s in upstate Vermont and NYC, the film follows the journey of Jude Keffy-Horn (an effective Asa Butterfield), an introverted high schooler and aspiring musician, prone to smoking weed and huffing anything he can get his hands on. After a rather unfortunate mishap with his best friend, he decides to change up his lifestyle, and he moves in with his pot-growing hippie father (Hawke, in a sensitive, generous, extrememly funny performance) in the big apple. This film was directed by Shari Springer Berman and Robert Pulcini, the director’s of American Splendor, and if each of their projects hasn’t gotten close to the brilliance of their first, they’ve become reliable storytellers who are interested in that middle of the road story or project. Based on Eleanor Henderson’s novel, the film benefits from an excellent sense of time and place, with 1980’s NYC convincingly recreated on a presumably small budget, with the New England location shooting adding a touch of lived-in believability. Emile Hirsch, Julianne Nicholson, Emily Mortimer, Nadia Alexander, and Avan Jogia all contribute spirited supporting performances, while the camerawork from Ben Kutchins is unfussy yet moodily stylish in a low-key manner. Personal fun fact: one of the producers of this film, Robert Simmons, is an old high school friend – congrats!

 

PTA’S MAGNOLIA — A REVIEW BY NLC

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Paul Thomas Anderson’s unique and sprawling sense of narrative was perfectly matched by cinematographer Robert Elswit’s total mastery of the widescreen aspect ratio in Magnolia, a film that feels studiously cinematic, existing in its own hermetically sealed universe, a world that looks and sounds pretty much like our own, but contains a surreal, heightened atmosphere that was made possible expressly because of how well PTA and Elswit understand light, framing, and overall composition. The Stedicam work in this film is extraordinary, with one shot in particular ranking as one of the greatest of all time – the scene where child prodigy Stanley Spector (Jeremy Blackman) is being escorted by his domineering father (Michael Bowen) and stressed-out show coordinator through the bowels of the TV studio. In this long, unbroken piece of virtuoso filmmaking, the audience learns not only about two very important characters, but comes into contact with a variety of peripheral individuals, while providing a fascinating look at the behind-the-scenes machinations of a game show. The shot also starts outside, in the rain, and then moves inside, further upping the technical demands of the crew, which resulted in something truly unifying from a filmmaking perspective; it’s one of the ultimate “show-off” shots that adds something to the narrative instead of just being style for style’s sake. All throughout Magnolia the audience is treated to PTA and Elswit’s massive sense of style (the bit with the camera staying locked in place in the kitchen with Melora Walters and John C. Reilly entering and exiting frame is a delight), which never overpowers the story, probably because the narrative is as juicy and oversized as the visual aesthetic.

And this isn’t an action film or a period piece or some sort of hyped-up thriller, but because PTA is pure-cinema-all-the-time, Magnolia feels big, it feels weighty, and the visual design of the film intermingles with the density of the script and forms one epic yet intimate whole that feels cohesive. The camera seemed at-one with all of the actors and it’s because Anderson and Elswit are so in touch with one another as collaborators that this film feels uniquely organic in a way that few other films ever achieve. The use of music jacked-up many scenes – not to mention the sing-along towards the mid-way point – to the point of dizzying heights; this film has a busy soundtrack, taking in tons of sonic information, in an effort to create an audible tapestry in a decidedly Altman-esque fashion. One after another, a roll call of brilliant actors take center stage and run away with the movie; Tom Cruise, Jason Robards, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Julianne Moore, William H. Macy, John C. Reilly, Melora Walters, Philip Baker Hall, and Jeremy Blackman offer up performances that stare directly into their tortured souls as screen artists. This is a movie about damaged people behaving in questionable ways, so as a result, there’s an anything-goes quality to the narrative. It may not live in the “real-world,” but in terms of an untouched cinematic vision, something like Magnolia lives with the greats of Los Angeles storytelling. Even if the results are exactly your cup of tea, the boldness of the filmmaking simply cannot be denied.

The Revenant: A review by Nate Hill

If the rumblings from director Alexander Gonzalez Inarritu and his intrepid cast and crew about The Revenant being the most tumultuous, challenging shoot of their lives, it’s all in service of the loftiest of causes one could achieve: to produce great art. I say that without pretension or monocle wagging patronization, and mark my words: The Revenant is by and far the greatest film this year, and possibly of the last decade. It is monumental in scale, meticulous in pacing and erects the fundamental pillars of the human condition so flawlessly that we feel we are watching actual history materialize before our eyes, untethered from the notion that it’s just a movie.
Let’s start with the ocular deity that is Emmanuel Lubezki: This film contains the best cinematography I have ever seen in my life. The bold location scouting is a catalyst for the prodigy of a DOP to work his ethereal magic. Time and time again throughout the film I found myself marvelling at the stunning patience and skill displayed by the man in attaining his precious shots, constantly chafed by what I imagine was an impossibly stressful environment, bogged down by time constraints and the pure, uncaring call of nature itself. He shot with natural light for all but one scene, an unimaginable achievement that plays out in endless beauty that rocks your soul to its foundation for the entire two and a half hour running time. The locations, lovingly culled from deep within northern Canada and briefly Argentina, are an unforgiving cacophony of serene snowfalls, cascading rivers and jagged, untamed mountain ranges. This is the landscape I have grown up in and call home and to such holy places captured with such reverence on film, gilding a story of such primordial importance had me next to tears.
Leonardo DiCaprio pulls out all the stops in his ferocious portrayal of Hugh Glass, a frontiersman who lives by his feral gut instinct alone, attempting to guide his fur trapping expedition through the terrain while looking out for his half Pawnee Native son who he already rescued from aching tragedy years before. After a harrowing raid in the dawning minutes of the film that makes it abundantly clear how serious the film intends to be, he and a small band of men are stranded and forced to contend with the land, and the threat of the natives finding them. Glass then gets attacked by a bear in a nerve shattering sequence that had my adrenal glands running a marathon. The frank, unapologetic nature in which the scene plays out reminds us all that nature isn’t our playground of opportunity and commerce, but a living organism that can bite the hand that it refuses to feed with alarming abandon. The sheer level of carnage inflicted upon Glass by both beast and man will shake you to your core, as will the excellent makeup and CGI effects that drive the point deep into your retinas. Tom Hardy disappears into his role better than Glass’s expedition blends into the treacherous blizzards, playing John Fitzgerald, a cowardly motherfucker who is content to leave Glass to the elements and seek fortune elsewhere, dragging sympathetic Jim Bridger (Will Poulter, excellent) along with him. The military component of their expedition (Domhall Gleeson, superb) suspects Fitzgerald and is wary. Hardy is the very definition of an acting chameleon, and disappears headlong into the role that had me riveted, and rooting for a best supporting actor win. The entire cast was subjected to a brutal nine weeks exposed to the elements, each other, and the raw, archetypal narrative of the piece that was being made, and each of them shows it in spades.
At its core it’s a revenge piece, spurred by aching character interaction involving Leo and his family in affecting flashbacks. Leo goes through somewhat of a transformation here.. He loses all he has left to an uncaring, cold faced world that would sooner see him tossed around a moss stained forest in pieces than avenged. But his Hugh Glass rages against the dying of the light right alongside Lubezki’s lens, creating in tandem the perfect voyage of a man who has become so consumed with the forces of nature in his quest to attain some semblance of his former self, that he has become somewhat of an element himself. Leo truly deserves gold this time around.

Adventure/survival epics are my favourite. This one stands out, and yet.. does more than that, if possible. It delves deep into the lush, echoing vastness of the past and pulls forth a story so human, so recognizable, in such a force of construction where the fruits of everyone’s labour are so obvious, it can’t help but be worshipped as a classic in the art form of cinema and a treatise on how to excel in every single area of the medium.

Inglourious Basterds – A Review by Josh Hains

“I think this just might be my masterpiece.” – Lt. Aldo Raine

The quote above that leaps from the mouth of Lieutenant Aldo Raine, and both echoes an earlier scene in Inglourious Basterds, and closes out Quentin Tarantino’s sixth film, is not a gleefully pretentious boast as one could blindly assume, but in my eyes, a coy wink to the audience from a director who seemed to be aware at the time, that he had in fact concocted his masterpiece. To this day, Tarantino holds the film’s notorious opening sequence, where Christoph Waltz’s Nazi Colonel Hans Landa (in an Oscar winning turn) slowly and methodically removes vital information about the whereabouts of a Jewish family from the mouth of farmer Perrier LaPadite, in high regard as the best thing he has ever written. Whether he believes the film in its entirety is a masterpiece or not remains ambiguous to me. Whether you find it to be his masterpiece, or far from it, is another story. What I think of the film is coming right up.

I can recall with reasonable clarity the first time I saw Inglourious Basterds, on DVD in the comfort of my bedroom, and how I found myself both thrilled and bored at the same time. I had heard from friends and even a couple teachers at my high school that I was guaranteed to love Tarantino’s latest feature, and there I was at films end underwhelmed and sorely disappointed. At the time of the film’s release, I was quite the action movie junkie who seemingly lived and breathed violent cinema, and was expecting a simplistic, wickedly graphic WWII action adventure extravaganza, something so relentlessly bloodthirsty and violent it would make Rambo 4 and Shoot ‘Em Up look like Forrest Gump in comparison. What I did not expect, or want, was the deeply resonant, audacious blackly comical war picture I was served on a silver platter. You could say I was rather cinematically ignorant. Roger Ebert had it pegged right on the forehead when he said it would annoy some, and startle others. I was certainly startled by unexpected moments of frightening violence, and as mentioned, I was annoyed that I had not received that ultraviolent action movie I so desperately wanted. But by the same token, I was pleasantly surprised by Inglourious Basterds.

What took me by surprise were two vastly different aspects of the film: the craft, and the impact. Initially, I was taken back by how great the performances were, in particular and quite obviously, Pitt and Waltz’s, and just how much fun and wild and odd, and yet, deeply layered, three dimensional, and even kind of powerful those two performances and plenty of others, to this day still are. I was hypnotized by Tarantino’s musical selection, captivated by his editing and the offbeat and bold manner of storytelling he was shoving down my throat. But what really caught me off guard, was just how damn suspenseful the entire film was. I sat with my eyes glued to the screen while Landa interrogates LaPadite, quite literally chewing on my nails and almost giddy from the overwhelming tension and suspense I felt boiling over within myself. Or in the case of the sequence in the basement bar, where the identities of three Basterds hinge on the validity of one of their accents that sounds a wee bit off to a nosy and understandably suspicious Nazi Major, the threat of impending violence growing at the drop of every letter that falls from their respective tongues…I could have chewed my finger off, I was so consumed by suspense. Or even later in the film, in a moment toward films end to be more specific, when Shosanna is ever so close to watching her unseen reel of film displayed before Hitler himself and an unhealthy number of Nazis, when the ever persistent and fairly annoying Fredrick Zoller comes knocking at the door to the projection room…oh damn. I could have swallowed my arm whole like a shark.

But what has surprised me the most is the second item I mentioned, the impact the film has had on me in the years since my first viewing of it. Over time, and with expected subsequent viewings, I have come to adore it more and more with each individual viewing. Long gone is the lust for a purely cathartic action packed ride, the days of me wishing Tarantino had made the movie I wanted to see, and not the incredible piece of cinema I am praising today. The more I see Inglourious Basterds in all its angry, hilarious, gutsy, and riveting glory, the more I come to appreciate the cinematic gift Tarantino gave those receptive enough to see the film for what it is, and not what it could be.

Which brings me to one final point. On January 2nd, I sat down in a crowded theatre with quite a good seat in the middle if the room, and found myself completely engrossed in Quentin Tarantino’s eighth film, The Hateful Eight, for its entire 168 minute long duration. Yes, this was the widely seen digital theatrical cut. After seeing the film, I informed my friends that I felt it was the high point of Tarantino’s career, his masterpiece plain and simple, and likely my favourite film within his short repertoire. A week later, I find myself stumped. The Hateful Eight is like a well oiled machine with nary a hiccup along the way. It is so finely tuned, so boldly and magnificently performed, so passionately manufactured, and so angrily powerful and intensely resonant, I find myself unable to shake the memory of it from my mind for even a second. I called it his masterpiece after all. But prior to seeing The Hateful Eight, I called Inglourious Basterds his masterpiece. Surely he can have two masterpieces, but one will always stand a little taller than the other, so which one takes the high ground? I judged them by their endings. Now, for those of you who have not had the pleasure, or displeasure (depending on where you stand on the film once you’ve seen it), of seeing The Hateful Eight, you need not worry about spoilers, because I will not provide any.

The Hateful Eight, while complicated in the dialogue that leads to its inevitable conclusion, is to put it bluntly, simple entertainment, and almost could have been quite the superficial film. Much of the meat of the film is not bloody killing or hyper stylized visual gimmickry that seems to be the meat of a couple of his other films (at least three), but the very dialogue that propels the film forward, at least for me, with the velocity of a hot bullet. Additionally, The Hateful Eight is as angry, spiteful, nasty, brutal, profane, and humorous as Inglourious Basterds, and unexpectedly hopeful. It is a blast, a real treat, and a true gem of a film. At films end, I felt so deeply that the film is perfect, and in the way the ending is constructed and performed, I found myself swept up in its sublime power in a way only a small, and I do mean small, handful of films had ever done beforehand. I felt like I could breathe again, as if I had been holding my breath in as I sat in a disquieted and unnerved, suspense ridden state, completely caught up in the twisting and turning of this Western mystery. I felt pure relief, and yet I felt like I was still grappling with the angry, societally relevant morality tale spinning at the centre of the film, a sensation I have yet to shake.

Inglourious Basterds is not simply entertainment for the sake of entertainment or the mastering of craft…not that The Hateful Eight is either. It is an intricate, complicated piece of work. Here is a film that gives Jews hypothetical revenge against Nazism, with richly textured, yet goofy and nearly sadistic characters enacting swift justice with their guns, knives, and a baseball bat, creating chaos within France, and with every bullet riddled scalped Nazi, sending the coldest shivers all the way up the ranks of the Nazi war machine, echoing the horror of Nazi atrocities. In its final moments, one senses an air of achievement in much the same way the surviving characters surely do, having won the war and overcome pure evil, and yet we sit still, frozen, almost shell shocked, utterly disquieted. Because in those final moments, we are still dealing with the ramifications of their actions, cleansed of nothing, and left with a powerful, overwhelming sensation burning in our guts. Even as Aldo revels in his mastery of scarring Nazis with swastikas carved into their foreheads, and Tarantino winks at the audience with that clever last line that rings as truthfully as anything he has ever written, we cannot help but feel unsettled, disturbed, disquieted, shocked. I think we are supposed to.

But none of that answers the question of which film do I hold in higher regard as Tarantino’s clearer masterpiece. And on that note, here is my verdict: Inglorious Basterds is bound for the same iconic glory as Pulp Fiction, and fully deserves every ounce of it, but The Hateful Eight, flawless in its execution and utterly unforgettable in its sublime power, takes the high ground. A dramatic film has not stuck to my mind as hard as The Hateful Eight has in the last three years since I saw Killing Them Softly in its theatrical run. It is just that damn good.

But of course, I have a sneaking suspicion another film will replace The Hateful Eight in my mind as if I never saw it: the Golden Globe winning The Revenant.

We’ll see.

ALEJANDRO GONZALEZ INARRITU’S THE REVENANT — A REVIEW BY NICK CLEMENT

The Revenant, Alejandro González Iñárritu’s aggressively masterful new wilderness epic, is the true definition of a consummate big-screen experience. Comparisons to Apocalypse Now, Aguirre, The Wrath of God, Jeremiah Johnson, Deliverance, and so many others before it are apt and fair; even after only one viewing, I feel confident in saying that this film belongs on the short list of great, filmed-at-no-expense extravaganzas. So few movies have attempted this sense of physical verisimilitude, and it all registers as a towering work that frequently boggles the mind, and most importantly, shakes the soul. Taking the simplest but most effective (not to mention timeless) of narrative conceits and setting this ferocious story of survival and death against one of the harshest environmental backdrops was a stroke of genius that would make Herzog envious; we know that Malick will be doing cartwheels during the show and after the lights have raised, as this is a film that feels cut from the same cloth as that legendary filmmaker – it’s like The New World on crystal meth.

The Revenant is extremely gory and unrelentingly mean and necessarily violent and not interested in holding your hand and being your friend or giving you “entertainment” in the classic sense of the word. But in ways that few studio movies dare to do, it challenges your expectations, dares you to keep watching, and asks you to submit yourself to a piece of filmmaking that’s been expressly designed to showcase death and suffering in all its forms. Nobody and nothing is safe in this film – men, women, children, animals, the landscape – it’s all there to be destroyed, ripped apart, and shattered. The performances from Leonardo DiCaprio and Tom Hardy are both wholly consuming, but in very different ways. DiCaprio is the hero of the piece, and his emotional core can be traced easily – his son has been killed, he’s been left for dead, revenge is all that matters. These are inherent instincts inside of every one of us, whether we want to believe it or not. That this is a true story, all I can say is, good God damn. Tom Hardy is brilliant – yet again – and brilliant in ways that will fly over the heads of many viewers. What he’s able to convey with just his eyes, from film to film, is nothing short of extraordinary, and despite playing the villain in The Revenant, he’s a man of strict moral code, understandable to some degree, which makes his decision making, and finally his cowardice, all the more fascinating to observe. And when the two of them face off in the final act, all bets are off, anything goes, and the way that the filmmakers showcase their brutal face off with one another grabs you by the throat and never lets up.

But the star of the show is director Iñárritu and his peerless cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki, who with movie after movie, keeps making the case for the label of greatest working cinematographer in the world. And in a world filled with Deakins and Elswit and Richardson and Doyle and Debie and all of the rest of the greats, it’s even more impressive how consistent and extraordinary his films have been. Every shot in The Revenant is glorious; half of the film feels as if it were captured during magic hour, the use of natural light is stunning, and I just don’t understand how some of these long takes have been achieved; movie magic at its finest. Please reflect on this partial list: Children of Men, The Tree of Life, To the Wonder, Gravity, Birdman, The New World. Say what you want about the movies themselves (their all personal favorites from the last few years), but the visual nature of each and every one of them has been second to none, always groundbreaking, and frequently spellbinding. His work on The Revenant is likely his best, taking some of the visual cues he’s picked up from his now iconic (and often copied) collaborations with Malick, and infusing his imagery with a harsh sense of the extreme that is impossible to ignore. I can’t believe that Fox put up $135 million for a wildly savage, proudly R-rated movie that offers zero chance of sequels and lunchboxes and toys and action figures; in this respect it’s this year’s Interstellar, an ambitious, auteur driven anti-blockbuster blockbuster made by a singular filmmaker who isn’t interested in capitulating to anyone.

The Revenant asks a lot from the viewer – to remain patient, to witness an unending amount of bloodshed and bodily terror, and to put you in the position of both of the two lead characters, for better or for worse. The bear mauling is one of the great modern CGI set pieces that I’ve ever seen, and trust me, I’m ALWAYS looking for wonky effects or anything to pull me out of moments like these – NOPE. It never happened. It’s virtually flawless, with some individual shots that are as gnarly as it’s going to get. That steam that releases from the bear’s mouth and that mists the camera lens is a movie moment I’ll not soon forget, to say nothing of the bear’s foot pressing down on Leo’s face, claws out and ready. That’s the thing about this movie – there are SO many of THOSE moments – it’s pure cinema, fusing image and sound (seriously, the sound work in this movie is extraordinary, from the diverse score to the perfect use of ambient sound effects) and ideas into an incredible package that feels thrillingly alive and desperate to blow us away. It sits alongside George Miller’s Mad Max: Fury Road as the defining movie, for this viewer, of 2015, and a work that I cannot wait to see again.

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