Oscars 2016: Room (2015) and The Revenant (2015)

Posted by in Film Review

In today’s double bill in the lead up to the Oscars, I take a look at Room (2015) and The Revenant (2015). These two are perhaps the most talked about of the Best Picture nominations this year (ignoring the dull Mad Max), so which is more likely to win? And what did I think of them both? Read more to find out!

Room (2015)

Room (2015)

Director:  Lenny Abrahamson
Writer: Emma Donoghue
Stars: Brie Larson, Jacob Tremblay

Room is an incredible film. If you haven’t seen it yet please do yourself a favour and go watch it, and do so as blind as possible. Done that? Good. Then let’s talk about it.

Spoilers for Room (2015) Ahead!

If Room had a different team behind it then it could have quite possibily been almost like a Lifetime movie. Fortunately, thanks to the talent of the writing, direction and, most importantly, lead actors, a film that is much more than the sum of its parts has been born. Emotional and completely gripping throughout, Brie Larson and Jacob Tremblay are the main draw for this film. Their chemistry feels so genuine and both characters just seem so real. What could have been clichéd moments are made fresh through their acting and the way in which the viewer becomes so attached to them both made me panic and keep on edge when the possibility of anything bad happening to either arosed. When Ma overdoses in the bathroom I was ‘nope-ing’ from the second Jack woke up in bed alone and could hardly watch.

Director Lenny Abrahamson (whose previous film was the fantastic yet incredibly different Frank), has done a wonderful job in creating a child-like atmosphere which puts the audience into the shoes of Jack in a subtle yet compelling way. The fact that he managed to make Room (the place) not feel claustrophobic despite being obviously very small shows great talent, and the moving out into the real world becomes much more impactful because of it. This direction couples beautifully with writing that, while it does not rely on typical thriller twists, manages to keep the audience on the edge of their seat even long after the escape happens. They also allow for some very simple, yet powerfuly emotional moments to occur throughout like when Jack tells Grandma he loves her. And the shift of power from Ma to Jack in the second half happens in such a wonderful slow-burning manner. Just so much of this film makes the audience feel something, and its clearly obvious that its thanks to a talented team as opposed to cheap tear-jerking tricks. A stunning, beautiful, emotinal and, most of all, human film – Room is (so far) my pick for Best Picture.

The Revenant (2015)

The Revenant (2015)

Director: Alejandro G. Iñárritu
Writers: Mark L. Smith, Alejandro Iñárritu
Stars: Lenoardo DiCaprio, Tom Hardy, Domhall Gleeson, Will Poulter

Alejandro Iñárritu was the director behind last year’s Oscar winner Birdman, a winner in  Best Picture, Best Director, Best Original Screenplay, and Best Cinematography. And I feel it deserved it. Iñárritu and co. had created a fantastic and original piece of cinema that will be sure to go down in the history books. His next film, The Revenant, gained lots of hype and then praise on its release. But, much like I couldn’t understand all the love for Mad Max: Fury Road, I once again fail to understand a lot of the love here. My most pressing issue is that it simply feels far too long. Now, I don’t care if your film is an hour or ten, but if you don’t use that time to actually impact on your audience, do something meaningful, or somthing interesting then what’s the point? So much of The Revenant involves DiCaprio grunting his way through the world, doing things that have no impact on the audience as you never feel a connection or any sort of danger for his character. A lot of this is perhaps in the acting, or lack of it. Compare his performance to Tom Hardy’s and you’ll immediately understand what I wanted to see. Hardy became his character, embodying what he stood for and why. DiCaprio just fell flat, and when he is the only character on-screen for the majority of the time then of course the film is going to feel much too long for me.

Iñárritu is still a rather clever director, however. Beautiful shots with ingenuious and ballsy camerawork are used, with flair and style. One transition in particular stands out where DiCaprio’s breath fogs the camera glass, which becomes the mist in the mountains, then into smoke from Tom Hardy’s pipe. Such an organic movement through this visual is wonderful to see. And the camera movement from one person in battle to the next in the opening attack scene is fantastic and really helps to plant the viewer firmly into the battle. These two examples show the contrasting atmospheres that are acheived throughout the film: there are some stunning artful moments, which are surrounded in the harsh and gritty real world and the situations which the characters find themselves in. That isn’t to say all these moments land. The bear attack in particular feels very unrealistic and took me right out of the film, which became difficult as this is perhaps the main reason for the viewer to root for DiCaprio’s character. That and the absured Hollywood revenge-driven plot, which is as dull and unimaganative as any other.

Perhaps then we can sum The Revenant up in one phrase: A typical Hollywood blockbuster with a rather talented director at the helm. Oh, and with a fantastic performance from Tom Hardy to boot, I’d much more like to see him win Best Supporting than Leo win Best Actor. Despite the memeing, the latter just really doesn’t deserve it this year. And I feel like The Revenant doesn’t deserve Best Picture either.