A masterpiece of staggering beauty and cinematic awe
Opens with a dream montage – incredible imagery, and then we’re off and running with the hunting scene starting with the camera aimed down at the stream and capturing a complex tracking shot. Iñárritu brings back a variation on the drum score from Birdman, the framing of character faces from I Am Cuba and low-angle work from Welles
The very next sequence is a complex battle tracking shot at magic hour—it is Saving Private Ryan meets The Thin Red Line and the best of both- muscular filmmaking- sumptuous photography and complex blocking/choreography
The camera tilts up to the sky following the smoke
I sometimes talk about rolling tracking shots—Kubrick in the trenches in Paths of Glory or hotel in The Shining but these are floating—more like Tarkovsky or Gaspar Noe
Wide-angle tall tree up on a wall in an art museum stunners – dozens of these- overlooked or taken for granted by the majority of critics
The bear, Leo and others bleeding and breathing on the camera fogging it up– water kicking up on the lens—it is both a commitment to the authenticity of what we’re watching and certainly creating an awareness of the directorial feat of art we’re witnessing
.The bear sequence is impeccably done- – a comment on the inevitability of nature, death, sadness for the cubs- shot in long take so true to Iñárritu’s style
Tom Hardy as Tom Berenger in Platoon. He’s half-scalped, southern drawl, “All you have to do is blink” horrifying scene. It is a comment on the yin and yang nature of he and DiCaprio’s character. Berenger and Dafoe in Platoon were the devil and Christ figure—and here Hardy and DiCaprio are opposites on how they treat man and nature.
The physical performance from Leo—shot of the influence of Clockwork Orange — similar to Patrick Magee’s face
Like all of Iñárritu’s work- especially Amores Perros, Babel, 21 Grams – he’s piecing together separate strands of narrative and making a comment on how they intersect (often to hurt each other) – in one even they’re misconnecting because of language (Babel). That’s happening here. This is auteur cinema in subject as well- even though I’ll admit I think Iñárritu takes too long between the strands of the Chief looking for his daughter.
Albeit brief, the bond between DiCaprio’s Glass and his son Hawk is earned. Repetition in their laying their heads on each other chests, the surrealism sequences of past tragedy.
Those surrealism sequences are gorgeous. The pile of skulls set pieces, Iñárritu matches the breathing on the camera to the mist in the mountains in an edit.
DiCaprio’s best work? I think it is. It’s different than most of his work- it is physical vs. verbal, but his weathered face is a brilliant canvas— pained, resolute— DiCaprio is aided by Iñárritu’s camera, actor friendly close-ups of those glassy blue eyes, lines like “I ain’t afraid to die, I’ve done it already”. It’s more Clint Eastwood, Redford in Jeremiah Johnson or Steve McQueen-style than Pacino or something- but it’s so solid. He crawls for a lot of it like he did in that comic virtuoso scene in Wolf of Wall Street.
DiCaprio’s dedication to the role is admirable but always in service of character and story and the brutality of the world of the film
In-line with Iñárritu’s view on humanity- dog-eat-dog nihilism from Iñárritu’s debut—people slaughtering others, cruelty, the man who befriend’ s DiCaprio’s Glass is hung by the French, the Pawnee, Arikara Indians, often called Ree, wolves eating Bison
Long takes in natural lighting, no dialogue, the shot of DiCaprio getting fish, up against nature, up a ridge then overlooking the splendor of nature—brutality and loveliness mixed– certainly a powerfully repeated motif
A gobsmackingly striking sequence of the church in ruins—belongs in Tarkovsky’s world—enchanting
The juxtaposition of how Hardy’s character and DiCaprio’s treat nature is shown again and again comes full circle in the end- DiCaprio saves the daughter of the Chief and it saves him. Instead of attacking the man eating the bison liver DiCaprio is kind to him and he saves him in return.
At 131 minutes the avalanche on the mountain after DiCaprio seeing Gleeson scalped—set piece genius. This is Herzog carrying a boat over a mountain stuff. Awe.
The last 20 minutes turn into a fantastic western revenge showdown between the two foes
Emmanuel Lubezki and his crazy remarkable run as maybe cinema’s all-time greatest cinematography has to be mentioned and praised, his work here with Iñárritu with natural light (like a Malick film used almost exclusively in every frame) and the Alexa 65—sensational. But how about production designer Jack Fisk—his credits include Mulholland Drive, The New World, Thin Red Line, Tree of Life, The Master, There Will Be Blood
A masterpiece – one of cinema’s greatest recent achievements