Tag Archives: Tom Hardy

“The Revenant” (2015) was astonishingly good.

“The Revenant” (2015) changed the way that I see movies.  This utterly immersive, jaw-droppingly gorgeous period thriller is easily one of the best films I’ve ever seen, and I plan to see it again, soon.  I’d rate it a perfect 10.

It’s a visual masterpiece.  Its cinematography renders its mountains, valleys and plains both dreamlike and lucid, and its action is unflinchingly visceral.  Shot mostly in Alberta, Canada (standing in for 1823 Montana and South Dakota), the film’s visuals are more stunning than anything I’ve ever seen.  You truly do feel that “you are there.”  But “there” is an absolutely brutal 19th century middle American winter wilderness.  It’s fatally dangerous, both with its unforgiving elements and with the human violence that seems to erupt casually and constantly over its land and resources — not to mention bloody retribution among groups and individuals.  This isn’t a movie for the faint of heart.  I won’t spoil the subject of its gut-wrenching action sequences for fear of spoilers — most of these sequences arrive as frightening surprises, thanks to Alejandro G. Inarritu’s expert direction.  It is this juxtaposition of beauty and brutality that define the movie.

Leonardo DiCaprio plays Hugh Glass, an American trapper who begins as one of the seemingly few characters that do not quickly resort to unnecessary violence, prejudice or revenge.  He later does seek vengeance for his son’s death against fellow trapper John Fitzgerald, played by Tom Hardy.  (Glass was a real frontiersman who was the subject of Michael Punke’s 2002 biography, “The Revenant.”  But a cursory Google search suggests to me that this is not actually “a true story;” I think of it as loosely based historical fiction.)  Like DiCaprio and Hardy, Domhnall Gleeson and Will Poulter also excel in their supporting roles.  (Gleeson seems to specialize in playing reluctant innocents; I remember him from his skilled performance as the gentle young computer genius in last year’s outstanding science fiction thriller, “Ex Machina.”)

But the main star of “The Revenant” is the setting itself, beautifully shot by Emmanuel Lebezki and masterfully employed by Inarritu as a kind of character unto itself in the story.  It’s lovely.  I’ve never seen a movie like this.  And while I’m no film connoisseur, or even a genuine critic, I’ve seen a lot of good ones.

The direction most reminds me of Francis Ford Coppola’s work in 1979’s “Apocalypse Now.”  I was also reminded of Stanley Kubrick’s “The Shining” (1980) — that was a film that also depicted threatening snowscapes as dreamlike and eerily beautiful.  There was one shot near the end, following DiCaprio’s vengeful hero on his path through immense firs on either side — it reminded me a lot of Jack Nicholson’s murderous Jack Torrance on his path through the hellish hedge labyrinth.

There is also a central action set piece involving an attack on one group of characters on another — it actually reminded me of Oliver Stone’s work in “Platoon” (1986).  Like Stone’s finale, the battle is staged so that the viewers have no sense of which direction the attack is coming from, paralleling the experience of the confused defenders.  There are countless long tracking shots throughout this film, with fewer cuts — and amazing circular surrounding shots of the action.  I’ve read that Inarritu actually had to transport cranes to his mountaintop shooting locations in order to execute those.

If you had to find a flaw with “The Revenant,” I suppose you could complain that its story and characters are thin.  We know little more about DiCaprio’s Glass beyond that he is competent, patient and slow to fight — then merciless and unrelenting in seeking justice.  Poulter’s Jim Bridger  is loyal, but not as strong as the hero.  Hardy’s Fitzgerald is a greedy, opportunistic bully whose murder of an innocent drives the plot.  That’s … little more than the plot and characters of a lot of throwaway westerns, isn’t it?  (I’ve indeed seen this movie categorized as a western in reviews.  That’s technically correct, I guess, but it feels too unique to pigeonhole that way.)

You could easily read the movie for moral ambiguity.  There are the obvious issues connected with revenge, of course, underscored by a final shot in which one character appears to break the fourth wall.  I found myself wondering about Glass’ compatriots.  Yes, it is Fitzgerald who acts villainously, but all of Glass’ fellow trappers also consign him to death by abandoning him after his injuries.  I do understand that they feel they can’t survive themselves if they try to carry him back to their staging area at Fort Kiowa.  But … is what they do “right?”  What would you or I do?

I think I am coming too close here to revealing too much about the film.  The best way to experience “The Revenant” is to walk into it knowing little about it.  I strongly recommend you do so.










My review of “Mad Max: Fury Road.”

Dear Lord, Charlize Theron is a fantastic actress.  It’s amazing what she can communicate with just her facial expressions and line delivery, even when her dialogue is sparing and simplistic.  She’s also a superb physical actress, has great scene presence and is stunningly beautiful.  Why not simply call this movie “Furiosa?”  It’s really that character’s story; the titular “Mad Max” says and does little that is plot-relevant.  He is a superfluous character who is here only to attract the fanbase for the original “Mad Max” movies.

Theron is one of two things that “Mad Max: Fury Road” has going for it.  The other is pure spectacle.  I don’t love this movie the way that everyone else seems to (I’d give it a 7 out of 10), but I really did enjoy the action, special effects, costume, prop and set design.  This is like a modern “Ben Hur” (1959) on acid — the characters, weapons, sets and vehicles look great.  This movie is like a really good heavy metal album cover made into a feature-length film.

My attention wandered, though.  The action is often difficult to follow, thanks to too much Michael Bay-type directing.  Tom Hardy is really just a one-note character as Max, despite efforts to render him in depth with cliche flashbacks of a lost family.  And I liked this guy a hell of a lot in “The Dark Knight Rises” (2012); I thought he made the masked Bane a great villain with physical acting that compensated well for an obscured face.

I submit that this is a somewhat brainless movie that barely qualifies as science fiction.  We have a sparse opening montage that tells us about world-ending wars for resources, and then the rest of the movie is really just an extended gladiator battle in the desert with baroquely costumed bad guys.  It’s like a monster truck rally.

It’s sometimes fun, but it doesn’t make a great film.  The good guys are too thinly drawn to engender viewer sympathy; the bad guys are too cartoonish to be scary.  You also need to turn your brain off, lest certain questions occur to you:

1)  Doesn’t gasoline degrade over time?  I don’t think it would be worth warring or bartering for after a year or so, unless there are oil rigs and complex refineries to seek and develop it.  We see evidence of neither.

2)  What do people eat, out here in the never-ending desert?  The disappearance of “green places” is a plot point; there is no arable land.

3)  How often does this dictator (“Big Joe” or something?) give his subjects water?  Once per day?  I thought dehydration killed or immobilized people fairly quickly.

4)  Where the heck are we?  I hear a lot of United Kingdom accents.

5)  I’m pretty sure that blood transfusions don’t work like that.  And even if they did, you’d see a hell of a lot of opportunistic infections in such unsterile conditions.

6)  Why does one young woman immediately fall in love with a sleeping barbarian whose teeth are spray-painted silver?

Whatever.  I’m not saying that this is a bad movie; I’m just suggesting that it’s a little overrated given its current accolades by fans.  It’s fun enough, if you’re in the mood for a “Mad Max” movie.


Lamenting “Star Trek: Nemesis” (2002)

I’ve been blogging my past movie reviews from Facebook — this was my own humble pan of “Star Trek: Nemesis” (2002).


It’s easy to understand why “Star Trek: Nemesis” (2002) was the lowest grossing Star Trek film of all time. I didn’t hate it quite as much as everybody else (I’d give it a 4 out of 10), but it was a pretty big misfire.

The movie was, frankly, boring for most of its first hour. At one point the film’s villains scold its antagonist, “You promised us action – and yet you delay!!” Yeah, that’s pretty much how the viewers felt. This movie has no sense of pacing at all. There’s an admittedly neat horror flourish early on, then an action sequence cheesy enough to have been lifted from “The A-Team.” Then a good portion of the film seems to revolve around … planning …and conversations. Did the filmmakers think they were writing Shakespeare?

This is also a cobbled together pastiche of plot elements we’ve seen many times before. We have a charismatic leader uniting two groups of bad guys. He’s got an astonishing secret and a link to Jean-Luc Picard. He’s got a new secret weapon and is heading to earth to destroy it. There’s another model/clone/whatever of Data. Telepath Donna Troi is mind-raped by a creepy alien (which just might be a plot device in poor taste). Only some inspired ship maneuvers and a surprise stratagem by Data manage to save the day. If this sounds familiar, you may have seen Star Trek movies or the TV show before.

Even the special effects were average. Did this movie really come out the same weekend as “Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones?”

Then there are the nitpicks connected with the entire franchise. Why do seatbelts not exist in Star Trek’s universe? If any matter at all can be created out of nothing via “replicators,” why do mining colonies exist? Why are all the aliens humanoid, but with funny foreheads? WHY IS EVERY CREW MEMBER PERFECT IN EVERY WAY? Is the future inhabited solely by cheerful, hardworking honor students who are always home by curfew? Please watch Ron Moore’s “Battlestar Galactica,” people. There are reasons why Starbuck is a compelling character, and Donna Troi is not.

And even a casual viewer of the TV show could spot the … complete lack of continuity. This film really does contradict the “All Good Things” climax for the show (though, admittedly, the show’s writers really did paint future stories into a corner with that far-future epilogue). If imdb.com is correct, director Stuart Baird had no familiarity with show, and even thought that Geordi LaForge was an alien. Wow.

All of this is a little sad, because there are a few elements of a great movie here. Tom Hardy (Space Bane?) was damn fantastic as the story’s villain. I had no idea he was this good of an actor. The guy is intense, convincing and scary, and I love the way he delivers his lines. What a shame his face and mouth were obscured in “The Dark Knight Rises” (2012). The guy is incredible.

Patrick Stewart is also fantastic, as usual. He does just fine in the “X-Men” films, but he seems like a one-note character there, because he’s almost always serene and in control. Even the “Star Trek: The Next Generation” TV show gave him a better range to show. He’s great when he shows remorse, concern and apprehension. You can tell the guy’s done Shakespeare.

Finally, the movie’s climactic ship-on-ship battle was quite good.

This movie also had some damned interesting themes stemming from Hardy’s bad guy, who is a younger, angrier clone (literally) of Picard. (Maybe that’s a spoiler, but it’s okay – you really don’t need to see this film anyway.) The script presents this well – it actually isn’t as stupid as it sounds. Any sci-fi movie in which Hardy and Stewart comment on the duality of man, or nature vs. nurture, ought to be an automatic classic. And this movie did just fine when it let the two actors explore that.

Oh well. They can’t all be gold, right? It’s just a little sad that the cast of a decent TV show (and a couple of decent movies) had to embark on this as their final voyage.



My review of “The Dark Knight Rises” (2012)

Blogging some of my past movie reviews — this is my take on “The Dark Knight Rises.”  Warning — fanboy bubbling ahead.


Dear Lord, “The Dark Knight Rises” (2012) was fantastic.  This third and final installment to Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy, at several times, wanted to make me stand up and cheer.

This film deserves a perfect 10.  All of the magic of “Batman Begins” (2005) and “The Dark Knight” (2008) return – especially with respect to an excellent script with a layered, detailed plot and great, three-dimensional characters.  I found myself seeing parallels between this movie and another current popular comic book adaptation, AMC’s “The Walking Dead.”  Both seem to have expertly taken the best elements from the comics, but then also changed or updated the source material to enhance it and surprise longtime fans.  And there’s a great continuity with the preceding films in terms of characters, themes, motif and story.

The dialogue was wonderful; this is a quotable movie.  And the basic story is perfect, especially in the way this film was challenged to follow up the amazing “Dark Knight.”  They made some wise choices.  Instead of trying to match Heath Ledger’s performance as The Joker, Nolan simply presents us with a new kind of “Bat-villain” — Bane, a supremely logical and ordered personality whose background seems very similar to Bruce Wayne’s.  I was a Batman comic book fan in the early 1990’s, when Bane was created.  He remains one of my all-time favorite villains, along with Randall Flagg, Two-Face, (Matt Wagner’s) Grendel, and Hannibal Lecter.  Nolan seized the compelling original character (created, I believe, by writer Chuck Dixon), and truly capitalized on it.

So too, did Nolan capitalize on the great character of Selina Kyle as Catwoman (again best characterized in the original comic by Dixon).  She was wonderfully played by a runaway performance by Anne Hathaway, and she really does deserve her own movie.

The acting was wonderful all around (even though Tom Hardy doubtlessly was challenged as an actor by a mask that obscured his face).  Hathaway, was a terrific surprise, and Gary Oldman and Michael Caine were awesome as always.  Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Marion Cotillard did just great in their supporting roles, especially with some character aspects and choices that viewers might not have expected.  I’ve criticized Christian Bale’s acting in the past … but here I thought he was at his best in the trilogy.

By the end of the movie, the two quibbles I had were extremely minor.  One, we see various supporting characters use high-tech military vehicles that would seem to require at least some training.  (You and I cannot simply hop into a tank and know how to use it.)

Two, by the end of the movie, Bane is not quite the iconic character I remember from the comics.  He seemed upstaged by certain other characters.  But I’m a nerd, and Bane is a favorite, so … really?  There’s probably no pleasing me, anyway.