Inspired by true events, The Revenant captures one man’s epic adventure of survival and the extraordinary power of the human spirit. In an expedition of the uncharted American wilderness, legendary explorer Hugh Glass (Leonardo DiCaprio) is brutally attacked by a bear and left for dead by members of his own hunting team. In a quest to survive, Glass endures unimaginable grief as well as the betrayal of his confidant John Fitzgerald (Tom Hardy). Guided by sheer will, Glass must navigate a vicious winter in a relentless pursuit for revenge. (20th Century Fox)
Alejandro González Iñárritu’s epic tale of revenge is a brutal and beautiful endurance test – limited only by its narrative, or lack thereof. The film layers metaphors and long drawn-out pauses in manner that sometimes derails the emotional pull of Glass’ dreary struggle. The man vs. wild story is elevated by amazing visuals and a raw performance from Leonardo DiCaprio.
Iñárritu and cinematographer Emmanuel “Chivo” Lubezki have made beautiful films together in the past – and The Revenant is no exception. It was filmed almost entirely with natural light – and it is gorgeous for it. Lubezki could be in the running for winning his third Oscar in a row. The camera captures the untamed wilderness with reverence. There are some truly astounding long-take action sequences in this film – including a heart-stopping bear mauling.
The arduous filming conditions for The Revenant are now legendary – some members of the cast and crew have called it a “living hell”. The film is drawn out over three hours of brutal, torturous conditions and quiet introspection from the incomparable Leonardo DiCaprio. So much has been made of this film being DiCaprio’s “Overdue Oscar” shot – one may worry that his actual work here might be undervalued. Leonardo DiCaprio really wants that Oscar – and to get there he will trek through the worst natural conditions, eat raw meat, subject himself to bear attacks and sleep in an animal carcass. DiCaprio is in top form – he give this role his all.
DiCaprio is completely committed in every exhausting moment, pushing himself physically further than he ever has before as an actor. So much of his performance is physical – he has maybe a dozen lines of dialogue, most of which are rasped through a torn throat – but so much of his performance is etched in his face, conveyed in his eyes, as he desperately crawls through the frozen tundra. If this is what it takes to get an Oscar, I’m not sure I need one.
The rest of the sparse supporting cast includes some great work from Domhnall Gleeson (who is everywhere recently including Brooklyn, Ex Machina, Star Wars: The Force Awakens) as Captain Andrew Henry and Will Poulter as the wide-eyed Bridger. Tom Hardy is in fine form as the intense and gruff John Fitzgerald (although he sometimes borders on Bane-esque levels on unintelligibility).
The Revenant is a gruelling watch – bleak visual poetry that sometimes lacks the emotion to fill the size and scope of its lens. Even with its flaws, it is an ambitious film that doesn’t shy from the brutality and atrocities of the frontier.
The Revenant is DiCaprio’s film through and through – he attacks every challenge with ferocity. This could be his Oscar-moment.