Surrender 117: Movie Review – The Revenant 

Tonight was movie night, with Best Picture nominated film number six of eight, The Revenant. I’ve heard excellent remarks about this movie. And yet, I wondered if the level of violence would be so high that I wouldn’t enjoy this story that many have called the “manliest” film of the year. Or would DiCaprio’s stellar performance win me over? I’d soon find out. 


The Revenant stars Leonardo DiCaprio, Tom Hardy, Will Poulter, Domhnall Gleeson and Forrest Goodluck. The action drama, based on true events, was directed by Alejandro G. Inarritu. The movie is rated R for violence, strong language and intense sequences and has a run time of 2 hours and 36 minutes. 

The Revenant was nominated for 12 academy awards, including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor for DiCaprio and Best Supporting Actor for Hardy. It won three Oscars…for DiCaprio, for Inarritu for directing, and for Best Cinematography. 


Set in the 1820s, Hugh Glass (DiCaprio) and his son Hawk (Goodluck) are members of a hunting party led by Captain Ashley (Gleeson). As the large group of wilderness men are preparing their bales of hides for shipment back to Camp Kiowa, they are ambushed by the Arikara tribe. Only ten men survive the attack. Stashing the hides for later retrieval, the survivors’ priority becomes making the long trek back to camp, without horses and in harsh wintry conditions. 


Dissension among the men threatens the bedraggled party as much as the weather. John Fitzgerald (Hardy), wild eyed and traumatized by a previous tribal attack, strongly opposes every decision Captain Ashley makes. He especially resents Glass, who because of his keen tracking abilities, naturally assumes leadership of the group. 

When a brutal bear attack leaves Glass severely wounded, Fitzgerald seizes the opportunity to rid the group of the man’s expertise. Ashley commissions Fitzgerald and the young Bridger (Poulter) to remain behind with Glass and his son while the rest of the party pushes onward. No one believes that Glass will survive for long, so grave are his injuries. Bridger and Fitzgerald are charged with giving the man a proper burial and then catching up with the group, bringing Hawk with them. 


Further tragedy results in Glass being abandoned, left for dead, suffering from his severe wounds. He is without food, water or weapons, unable to walk because of a broken leg. Camp Kiowa is 200 miles away, over rugged terrain, in the middle of a relentless winter. 

But the desire for retribution drives Glass to undertake a journey that is fueled by fierce determination and memories of a woman he once loved and lost. During his lowest moments, he hears her voice softly urging him onward, reminding him that as long as he draws breath, he must fight for life. 


I was right that this would be a difficult movie for me to watch. At times I chose to look away, from bloody woundings or battle scenes that were very graphic. These were brief, thankfully. Overall, The Revenant was a powerful film depicting a man who fights against all odds for survival. 

Warring tribes, French hunters competing for hides, animals, the terrain, his own men and the frigid cold and ever swirling snow all sought to destroy Glass. His life became as fragile as the wisps of breath that wheezed through his parched lips. And yet, this man refused to accept defeat, surviving by way of knowledge accumulated from years of living in the wilderness. 


While Hardy gave a remarkable performance as the crazed betrayer, this film belonged to DiCaprio. I physically hurt, watching his struggles. I groaned with him when yet another challenge threatened to end his journey. I looked up the film’s title word. 

rev·e·nant

ˈrevəˌnäN,-nənt/

noun

a person who has returned, especially supposedly from the dead.

The word perfectly describes DiCaprio’s character. Not dead. Not defeated.  Not finished with his mission or his life. This is a man who has returned from the dead and has nothing to lose, much to the dread of his enemy. 

Intense and starkly beautiful, look away from some scenes if you must, as I did, but experience this incredible film that honors the human spirit and the ability to endure for the sake of justice. Watch The Revenant, and Leonardo’s role of a lifetime.

Surrender 109: Movie Review: Brooklyn

At last, I got to watch the Best Picture Nominated film, Brooklyn. I’ve attempted to rent the DVD multiple times, yet it was never available and I would go home with another movie from my Best Picture list. Checking on availability when I returned Bridge of Spies, I was told once again that all copies of Brooklyn were checked out. But, Richard at Crown Video, my favorite DVD rental store, offered to hold the next copy that came in and call me. He did as promised. On this rainy afternoon, I had the joy of settling in to watch this much anticipated movie. 

 

Brooklyn stars Saoirse Ronan, Domhnall Gleeson, Emory Cohen, Jim Broadbent, Fiona Glascott, Jane Brennan and Julie Walters. The romantic drama, based on a novel by Colm Toibin, was directed by John Crowley. The movie is rated PG-13, for brief strong language and one scene containing sexuality, and has a run time of 1 hour and 55 minutes. 

Brooklyn was nominated for three Academy Awards, including Best Actress, Best Picture and Best Adapted Screenplay. It didn’t win in any category. 

Eilis Lacey (Ronan) is a young Irish woman with no future in Ireland of the 1950s. Her older sister, Rose (Glascott), makes arrangements through a priest in America, securing a place for Eilis in Brooklyn. With no prospects for marriage or a full time job, and knowing that Rose will care for their aging mother (Brennan), Eilis makes the heart wrenching decision to leave her homeland and immigrate to the US. 

  
  

With Father Flood’s (Broadbent) help, Eilis takes up residence in a boarding home run by the firm but kind Mrs. Kehoe (Walters). She is also hired as a clerk at the Brooklyn department store, Bartocci’s, and enrolls in night classes at the local college, to learn bookkeeping. 

Yet in spite of all the good that is present in this fresh start in the land of opportunity, Eilis is extremely homesick, missing her family. Her life feels as empty and cold as her first New York winter. Until she meets Tony (Cohen) at one of Father Flood’s Irish dances. 

 

 
Tony, who comes from a large Italian family, brings joy and love into Eilis’ life. He is kind and sweet natured, attentive and fun. Tony takes Eilis to restaurants and movies, to Coney Island to swim in the ocean, and home to meet his parents and brothers. He encourages Eilis to continue her studies, which she is excelling in.  For the first time since she arrived in America, Eilis feels happy and content. 

  

She shares her happiness with her sister back in Ireland, through long letters detailing her new life. Eilis anticipates introducing Tony to her Irish family, but that hope is destroyed. Father Flood brings sad news that Rose has passed away, unexpectedly. Devastated, Eilis desires to return to Ireland for a short stay. Before she leaves, Tony persuades her to marry him, in a simple and secret ceremony at city hall. 

  
Back in Ireland, everything has changed. Rose is buried and Mammy has aged and feels alone. Eilis, who is now perceived as glamorous and successful, is offered a temporary job that could become permanent. And reconnecting with her former friends, she meets Jim (Gleeson), a handsome young man from a prominent family in her hometown. 

 

 
Confused, and wishing circumstances would have been as promising before she left Ireland, Eilis enters back into life in her home country, a life that strangely echoes her existence in Brooklyn. In Ireland she now has the promise of a future that includes a good job, a man who loves her, and family and friends who want her to stay. Her life, her heart, is torn between two countries, and two men. What will she choose?

  

Oh, this was a great film to watch, full of depth and challenges and growth. I had never heard of Saoirse Ronan, but she gave a wonderfully rich performance, and well deserved her nomination for Best Actress. 

I teared up many times, over Eilis’ parting from her family and the emotional pain of her homesickness. One of my favorite scenes, that evoked the greatest stirring of my heart, was during the Christmas dinner served to poor Irish men of New York City. These men who had once worked hard, building the infrastructure of the great city, were now destitute, and weary of life. As the meal concluded, one man stood and sang softly in Gaelic, as a thank you. Eilis’ eyes filled with tears, as did every man’s eyes in the room. As did mine. I couldn’t even understand the words. But I didn’t need to. That beautiful song called deeply to my Celtic roots. My soul recognized the meaning, even if my brain couldn’t. 

Listen to Frankie’s Song HERE

 

Brooklyn was gorgeous to watch, with wonderful 1950s clothing and the depiction of simpler lifestyles. However, the story was not simple. 

Brooklyn showcases the decision Eilis must make, of choosing a comfortable past or an unknown future. The past holds tradition and familiarity, predictability and patterns. It can also limit and stifle and become too routine. The future is fresh and exciting, full of promise and opportunity. It is also unpredictable and risky and can create fear. 

The broad decision that Eilis faces is one that I have faced before and will face again. Indeed, each of us at some point in our lives will stand at such a crossroads. Cling to the past or look to the future? The old country or the new? There are things to love about both, things that nourish our souls and call to our hearts. It’s always our choice. What will I choose? What do you choose? 

  
  
  

Surrender 105: Bridge of Spies

This evening was movie night, as I watched the 4th of 8 Best Picture Nominated Films. I once again hoped to watched Brooklyn, holding Bridge of Spies in reserve as my second choice. I came home with the latter. 

  
Bridge of Spies stars Tom Hanks, Mark Rylance, Alan Alda, Amy Ryan, Austin Stowell and Will Rogers. This historical drama, based on true events, was directed by Steven Spielberg. The movie is rated PG-13 for some violence and brief strong language, and has a run time of 2 hours and 22 minutes. 

Bridge of Spies was nominated for six Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Best Writing – Original Screenplay, Best Musical Score and in a couple of technical categories. Mark Rylance won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor. 

 

In 1957, at the height of the Cold War, a Russian man, Rudolf Abel (Rylance) is arrested and charged as a Soviet spy. In a highly publicized show of receiving a fair trial, Abel is represented in court by Brooklyn attorney Jim Donovan (Hanks). Although the trial goes as expected, with Abel found guilty on all counts, Donovan takes his responsibility very seriously, desiring that his client truly receive a fair trial. 

Donovan’s honesty, and growing respect and compassion for Abel, draws judgment and anger from the across the United States. Even his senior law firm partner Watters (Alda) and his wife Mary (Ryan) don’t understand or support Jim’s desire to see Abel treated fairly. 

 

Although Donovan can’t prevent a guilty verdict, he does convince the judge to sentence his client to prison rather than give him the death penalty. Jim feels that Abel may serve a future purpose, should the need arise to exchange prisoners of war.  

And indeed, the need arises. For while Russians are spying in the US, Americans are doing the same over Russia. U-2 pilot Francis Gary Powers (Stowell) is shot down while on a covert mission and captured. The United States Government asks Jim Donovan to act as a non-government representative to negotiate the exchange of Abel for Powers. 

 

Donovan finds himself in Berlin, as the dividing wall is being built, negotiating with the Russians for the release of Powers, and with the newly formed East Germany government for the release of American college student Frederic Pryor (Rogers). The CIA doesn’t care about obtaining Pryor at that time, only Powers, as he knows critical information. But Donovan refuses to make the exchange unless both Americans are released. 

The lives of three men and the relationships between three countries all rest on the negotiating abilities of one very honest, and honorable, man. If he is successful, the exchange of Abel for Powers will take place across the Glienicke Bridge, more commonly referred to as the Bridge of Spies. 

  
This was a very good movie. I confess that I tend to lean toward James Bond type movies,  when watching films with the Cold War as the subject, full of action and cool gadgets and humor. I wasn’t excited about this Best Picture Nominated movie at all. I’m grateful for my tradition of watching all of the films. I would miss great stories and performances otherwise. 

Tom Hanks was superb in the role of the conscientious attorney, who was ruled by his heart and his sense of honor, rather than being swayed by popular public opinion. I enjoy movies based on true events. Jim Donovan later successfully negotiated on behalf of thousands of captive men, women and children. 

 

It was Rylance’s performance as Abel that was most riveting. He well deserved his Oscar. Artistic, thoughtful, an honorable man himself, Abel did what he was supposed to do, and was willing to accept the consequences. He maintained a peaceful demeanor, never expressing fear or worry. I smiled every time Jim asked him, “Don’t you ever worry?” and Abel replied calmly, “Would it help?” The friendship that grew between the two men, from radically different worlds, was heart warming. Abel affectionately called Donovan “the standing man” in his Russian language, recognizing the values that he stood for. 

I loved the messages contained within Bridge of Spies. The Cold War is over. The Berlin Wall has come down. And yet people are still divided and so ready to judge the differences they perceive in each other.  I choose to have compassion. I want to be honest, and honorable, in my dealings with all people…those who are similar to me, and those who are very different. I willingly offer up any prejudices held captive within me, in exchange for the freedom to love and care deeply for others. 

Being me, fully, I can let others be who they are, fully. We can build a bridge, step by step, toward each other…and meet there, in the middle. 

  

Surrender 78: Mad Max: Fury Road

Tonight it was time to watch the 2nd of the eight Best Pictute nominated films. I chose Mad Max: Fury Road. I was a fan of the original Mad Max trilogy, featuring a young Mel Gibson, that released 1980-1985, and I looked forward to checking out this reboot. 

  


Mad Max: Fury Road stars Tom Hardy, Charlize Theron, Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, Zoë Kravitz, Riley Keough, Courtney Eaton, Abbey Lee, Hugh Keays-Byrne and Nicholas Hoult. This action packed adventure film was written and directed by George Miller. It has a 2 hour run time and carries an R rating for intense sequences of violence. 

Mad Max was nominated for 10 Oscars, including Best Picture, Best Director, and in technical categories such as sound, editing, make up and costuming. Although it didn’t win for Best Picture or Best Director, it garnered six wins. 

  

Years after the apocalypse, a tyrant called Immortan Joe (Keays-Byrne) rules the wasteland, building and maintaining his motley empire with ruthless rules and slave labor. One of his warriors, Imperator Furiosa (Theron), makes off with Joe’s wives (Huntington-Whiteley, Kravitz, Kepugh, Eatin and Lee). The young women are used as breeding stock, and Furiosa seeks to liberate them. 

Furiosa flees toward her childhood home, called the Green Lands, with Joe and his War Boys in pursuit. She forms an uneasy alliance with Max (Hardy), who has just escaped from Joe’s Citadel, and a young War Boy (Hoult) who inadvertently finds himself switching allegiances.  

  

It’s a mad, intense, perilous chase across desolate lands, with Max and his group maneuvering in a massive War Rig that needs frequent mechanical adjustments. They encounter deadly storms and pockets of survivors scrabbling to live, while their relentless pursuers gain on them. 

This was a wild and fun two hours of movie viewing! I wondered how this version of Mad Max would live up to the original…and it certainly did. In my opinion, it’s a difficult task for any actor to top the brooding, manical performance of a 1980s Gibson. But Hardy gives a great performance as well, relying primarily on facial expressions and well timed grunts and groans. He plays Max as a man of action, with few words. 

  

The real hero of this story is Furiosa, played brilliantly by Theron. She perfected “the look” that can stop a truck or silence a War Boy. She has purpose, and a plan, fueled by the desire to get her charges to a safe place and return home. And I was pleasantly surprised that the five wives became so much more than eye candy, forming an effective female guerrilla band. 

Having last watched The Martian, I found it interesting that both of these movies deal with survival. One man, alone, must use ingenuity to survive on a hostile planet. The other struggles to survive among hostile people on a planet that has become almost inhabitable. There are lessons to learn from both films. 

After two hours of nonstop action, Mad Max: Fury Road ends nicely set up for a sequel. I look forward to the next adventure featuring Max Rockatansky. Let me catch my breath first!