Tag Archives: Domhnall Gleeson

The Revenant (2016)

7 Jan

Nature is cruel. At its most basic level, the humanity expressed in The Revenant seems to be designed to accomplish one thing and one thing only: survive at all costs. The film, directed by Oscar-winning Alejandro Inarritu, is a 150-minute long examination on brutish, dog-eat-dog survival with impeccable visceral and cinematic detail.

Set in early 1800’s, a group of trappers lead by Captain Andrew Henry (Domhnall Gleeson) are making their way through the wintery Montana landscape with a load of valuable pelts. Among the party are Hugh Glass (Leonardo DiCaprio), an experienced mountain man with tribal ties to local Native Americans, his son Hawk (Forrest Goodluck), and John Fitzgerald (Tom Hardy), a short tempered man with a particular disdain for natives. It’s clear right off the bat that these are hardened men in desperate times. In what may be one of the greatest opening battle sequences of all time, the group is ambushed by an Arikara hunting tribe, leaving multiple deaths on both sides. Desperate for supplies, the group must now travel through the snowy wilderness towards a nearby outpost, all the while trying to survive the threats from the harsh elements, native american hunters, wild animals, and each other.

Shot beautifully by veteran cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki (The Tree of Life, Birdman), The Revenant is becomes more breathtaking and visually complex with each passing moment. Like fellow Mexican director Alfonso Cuaron (Children of MenGravity), Inarritu seems to have become fond of the long-shot, utilizing Lubezki camerawork to create a fully immersive and naturalistic narrative experience. By avoiding as much CGI as possible, the cast and crew painstakingly suffered through a lengthy, 9-month production phase where some allegedly ate, slept, and lived like their character counterparts for months on end.  DiCaprio said some scenes were “some of the most difficult things I’ve ever had to do. Whether it’s going in and out of frozen rivers, or sleeping in animal carcasses, or what I ate on set. [I was] enduring freezing cold and possible hypothermia constantly.” Aledegy, The Revenant far exceeded and nearly doubled its production budget.

All this dedication from the cast crew does payoff, with the end result being an absolutely brutal and realistic look into nature’s dark side. Inarritu is no stranger to suffering, with many of his previous films (21 Grams and Biutiful in particular) focusing in on the emotional impact of human sorrow. But in The Revenant, that suffering becomes more physical, intimate, and raw as we accompany one character’s journey to seek revenge after enduring hellish depths of physical and emotional pain. Inarritu knows how to foster incredible performances from his actors (DiCaprio is great as always, but Tom Hardy truly puts on a show), that, when combined with visual elements, create a compelling and rich story. At its core, it’s a man vs nature survival story, but The Revenant does show off a deeper, even spiritual side of the hellish nature.

Bottom Line: Expertly-directed with incredible attention to detail, The Revenant is a visceral, immensely rewarding, and near-spiritual experience, while still somehow equally as harrowing, ruthless and painful. 

Rating: 8/10 

Film Recipe: Nihilistic wilderness survival of The Grey (2011) + savage violence and brutality from Game of Thrones 

Ex Machina (2015)

28 Apr

In 1958, Stanislaw Ulam, one of the greatest mathematicians to ever live, talked about a technological event called The Singularity.  Ulam theorized that with the ever-increasing advances in computing technology, creating a super-intelligent computer system that would outperform a human brain was inevitable.  Ex Machina, starring Oscar Isaac, Domhnall Gleeson, and Alicia Vikander documents the psychological and ethical implications of such an event by highlighting the various aspects of having super-intelligent machines interacting with humanity.

Caleb works as a programmer for a tech company called Bluebook (another word for Google Inc), the world’s most prolific search engine. The company’s owner, Nathan, lives in an isolated, high-security luxurious home which doubles as a state-of-the-art technological research facility. Caleb is lucky enough to win a lottery that gives him the chance to spend a week living with Nathan, as he embarks on a mysterious task for Bluebook.

Caleb is your seemingly typical white-skinned blonde-haired computer nerd; he is self-conscious, reserved, and humble. Nathan on the other hand, is virtually on the opposite side of the spectrum. Incredibly charismatic, social, and sexy, the party boy is usually seen with either a barbell or a bottle of vodka in hand. The interactions between the two awkwardly authentic. It soon becomes clear what Caleb’s secret task is: to test an artificial intelligence program named Ava. Essentially, Caleb is tasked with figuring out if Ava has a mind of it’s own, or if it’s rather just acting off a simple pre-programed structure. What follows is a mental tug-of-war between the trio, as the various characters try to unspool each other’s true intentions.

Ex Machina is a brilliant exercise of psychological anxiety fueled by sexual tension and technological paranoia. Layers of personality are gradually stripped as the film progresses revealing the startling and disturbing psyche that is behind each person/machine. It’s a complex and deeply freudian approach to the thriller genre, and remains unpredictable just when you think the story ventures into familiar territory. First time director Alex Garland really has crafted a remarkable and textually rich film. The aesthetic appeal of Ex Machina is hard to resist as well; stunning exterior shots of waterfalls, glaciers, and forests are clashed against Kubrick-esc takes of dim interiors, and the score by Ben Salisbury and Geoff Barrow is sure to be one of the year’s best.

Bottom line: Ex Machina is a layered and complex take on the robot sub-genre that proves to be both emotionally and psychologically stimulating.

Rating: 9/10 

Film Recipe: Under The Skin (2014) + Moon (2009) + Enemy (2014)