Movie reviews: The Revenant, Creed

We review the biggest releases of the week.

Leonardo DiCaprio in The Revenant
Taking aim DiCaprio gives a stunning performance in The Revenant. Image Picture 20th Century Fox

The Revenant (15)
Running time: 156 minutes

Have you ever emerged from a cinema feeling mentally drained and defeated following an epic journey, the outcome of which you spend the entire film second guessing? You will following The Revenant – and it’s a marathon at over two-and-a-half hours.

You may consider yourself to be quite the Bear Grylls when it comes to the outdoors. After watching The Revenant, you’ll be left doubting if you’ve ever truly even been outside at all. Leonardo Di Caprio’s wildman Hugh Glass makes Bear Grylls and Ray Mears look like Paris Hilton on a Girl Guides outing.

Set in the 1820s, it tells the true story of frontiersman Glass on a fur trading expedition left for dead when the mission goes pretty badly. Directed by Oscar-winning Alejandro González Iñárritu (21 Grams, Birdman), The Revenant sees Glass undergo an endurance test to end them all. Murderers, mountains, Native American arrows and the ferociously harsh elements are just some of the dangers intent on destroying him. 

Then there’s the already infamous bear scenes. Contrary to strong rumours, Glass gets well and truly mauled, but only mauled by the grizzly. Your reviewer still spent a large portion of The Revenant hiding behind her scarf – the might of the bear is so believable that you can nearly feel the beast’s breath on your face. The startling violence – and it is violent – is consistently at odds with the sheer beauty of the locations in which all the blood is shattered and revenge pursued. The cinematography is instantly and consistently mesmerising.

While Leo takes the lead, it’s only by a small margin. As Glass’ truly evil fellow hunter John Fitzgerald, Tom Hardy is very close behind with an often scene-stealing performance. Brit Will Poulter also deserves a mention, as does Irish actor Domhnall Gleeson (recently seen in Brooklyn and Star Wars) as Captain Andrew Henry, one of the few in The Revenant who strives to do the right thing.

So. Will DiCaprio finally land a long-deserved Oscar? He most certainly should.

Knowing the transformation and psychological as well as physical challenges DiCaprio faced is part of the fun as a viewer. Just like Matthew McConaughey in Dallas Buyer’s Club, immersing himself so completely in the role is what sets his performance apart.

When emerging from the cinema, it will take you a couple of hours to shake off the inevitable icy chill that remains long after the credits roll.

While the chill subsides, the memories remain. A stark and beautiful triumph. 

Jennifer O’Brien

Creed (12A)
Running time: 133 minutes

Michael B Jordan and Sylvester Stallone in Creed
Knock-out performance Sylvester Stallone hits a career high reviving Rocky in Creed. Image Picture Warner Bros Pictures

Everything you could ever want from a Rocky film is present and correct in Creed.

There’s an underdog to root for in Michael B Jordan’s Adonis Creed, training montages involving chasing loose chickens and sprinting through the streets of Philadelphia, and edge-of-the-seat boxing bouts that’ll hit you for six.

Most importantly, there’s Sylvester Stallone back as dim-witted charmer Rocky Balboa. Creed is hands-down Stallone’s best performance since 90s crime thriller Cop Land. Better make some room on the shelf for that Best Supporting Actor Oscar?

This time around, Sly’s taking a backseat, leaving the in-ring action to Michael B. Jordan and the writing and directing to fast-rising filmmaker Ryan Coogler.

Until now, Stallone has scripted every single word of the Rocky saga, but Coogler and co-writer Aaron Covington have managed to come up with the ageing Italian Stallion’s best storyline since the 1976 original.

Balboa’s wife Adrian and best pal Paulie are long gone, but he finds a new lease of life when Adonis – the estranged son of his former rival Apollo Creed – walks through the door wanting a trainer. Adonis has slowly built a name for himself in underground boxing, and victory against a local Philadelphia fighter (which Coogler shoots in a sensational unbroken take) suddenly puts him on the radar of disgraced Scouse brawler Ricky Conlan (Tony Bellew).

Things barrel forward to an epic showdown at, of all places, Everton’s Goodison Park (Stallone has long been an unlikely Everton fan). Along the way, Adonis finds a father figure in Rocky, and learns valuable life lessons to boot.

According to Rocky, time is the undefeated champion. It gets everyone in the end. This is no more poignant than when his own health begins to deteriorate as Adonis is heading towards his title bout with Conlan. Time might be rolling by, but you’ll never be able to dim that twinkle in Rocky Balboa’s eye.

Simon Reynolds


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