The latest from Alexander G. Innaritu (director of Birdman), The Revenant stars Leonardo Dicaprio, Tom Hardy, Domhnall Gleeson and Will Poulter (aka the kid from We're the Millers). A tale of revenge set during the fur trade, the film tells the story of Glass's (Dicaprio's) desperate struggle to survive after being left for dead after a bear attack by Fitzgerald (Hardy). There are a few more wrinkles to the story but I will avoid going into too much detail. The story itself is relatively simple and generally stays relegated to the background as the film focuses on astonishing landscape shots, unique action set pieces and strong performances all around.The film that most comes to mind as a comparison for this movie is Alfonso Cuaron's 2013 film Gravity, as both follow a lead character who is usually alone as they struggle to survive in a unique setting. Both films very effectively use CGI scenes in a way that "Oscar moves" generally don't; both films have a decent amount of action scenes. The biggest thing that separates the two films is the fact that The Revenant also follows Tom Hardy's character as he tries to move on with his life. Hardy gives the best performance of the film; he is simultaneously sympathetic and disgusting.I've had trouble deciding how I ultimately feel about the movie. There are a lot of really memorable scenes in the film that were unlike anything I have ever seen (the aforementioned bear attack scene being an example), but the 2 1/2 hour run-time combined with a relatively simple story made me find it a bit hollow. I would still definitely recommend seeing it, but in what is shaping up to be a pretty strong awards season, I don't really see it as a contender that I am rooting for.
Fair warning here, Spotlight deals with some pretty heavy subject matter and while I won't be going into much detail I will be giving a brief overview of the story. You've been warned. Spotlight is an all-star cast consisting of: Michael Keaton, Mark Ruffalo, Rachel McAdams, Liev Schrieber, John Slattery (Roger Sterling for you Mad Men fans), Brian d'Arcy James and Stanley Tucci. The films chronicles the real-life story of the Boston Globe Spotlight team's investigation into the Catholic Church's systematic refusal to deal with pedophile priests in Boston.Where Spotlight really excels is in it's decision to keep the film grounded, but still managing to create feelings of tension and energy. There are numerous scenes involving the reporters finding documents or knocking on doors that feel incredibly dynamic considering how mundane the subject matter is. I feel the credit goes to director Tom McCarthy, who also co-wrote the film, for being confident enough in the story to let it speak for itself, while also making the laborious nature of writing a story like this seem interesting.The thing that I really enjoy about the movie is that it serves as a continuation of the Globe's mission to expose this scandal, which exists on a much larger scale than simple Boston. At the end of the film, a list of cities where similar scandals have been exposed is shown onscreen, and it is nothing short of chilling. This feels like an important story, both in the specifics of the corruption of the Catholic Church and in the larger message; the need for we as a society to hold our sacred institutions accountable in the modern age. No one should be able to get away with such horrific acts.I would be remiss to end my review without giving mention to Mark Ruffalo's performance. He truly disappears into his character, with a naturalistic accent and a passion that felt powerful without feeling unrealistic. For me Ruffalo vs. Hardy in Revenant for best supporting actor is one of the most interesting matchups of the Oscars this year.I would definitely recommend Spotlight.