It’s awards season and the Oscars are just around the corner with the big question being, will this be Leonardo Dicaprio’s big year? Directed by Alejandro Inarritu, winner of the Oscar for best picture for Birdman in 2015, The Revenant ticks all the boxes for the judging panel as a dramatic epic based on a true story. With success already this year at the Golden Globes, surely this could be the year for Leo.
Director: Alejandro G. Iñárritu
Starring: Leonardo DiCaprio, Tom Hardy, Domhnall Gleeson, Will Poulter
Run Time: 156 minutes
Release Date: Out Now
Dicaprio plays Hugh Glass, a famous early 19th-century explorer who had vast knowledge of the uncharted American wilderness. He is the guide to a large hunting party that have been gathering animal hides all year in preparation to sell them when they reach their final destination before winter sets in.
The movie takes very little time to get going, with an attack by Native Americans looking to steal the hunting party’s hides to trade with the French for horses and guns. This very early scene turns out to be on of the best parts of the movies as it follows different characters through the assault as they try to survive and make it to safety. The scene is incredibly artists in the way the camera zooms in to focus on a character before zooming back out to show the audience the bigger picture, panning around the scene as the hunters fight off the Native Americans. The spectacle is like a well-choreographed dance routine with so many things going on simultaneously.
With the survivors heading down river to escape the Native Americans, the decision is made to make the rest of their journey on foot as Glass feels that is the safer option against the threat of any more attacks. Unfortunately for our brave explorer, as he scouts ahead he is attacked and mauled by a bear, another superb scene which holds very little back, the level of realism and gruesomeness is impressive. When the rest of the group come across Glass, who is pretty much on death’s door with a broken leg and deep cuts to his back and throat, they decide that two of the group should stay with Glass and the rest make their way to the nearest camp to get help. The hope is that Glass will recover but if not the two left behind will respectfully bury Glass.
One of the hunters left behind is John Fitzgerald, played by Tom Hardy, who has other ideas regarding Glass’s future and tricks his friend Bridger (Will Poulter) into leaving the explorer to die alone. With what can only be described as the will to survive, Glass doesn’t meet his end there and begins a slow recovery on his own while making plans to seek revenge against Fitzgerald.
This is where the pace of the movie slows down and drags as Glass tries to survive alone in the wild. Given what we’ve seen of the movie up until this point it seems a little disappointing in comparison and yet you never lose interest and it’s very difficult not to feel sorry for the character. As well as surviving the attack by the Native Americans and the bear mauling, he also is swept away down a freezing cold river through rapids and doesn’t die from hypothermia. If that wasn’t enough, later in the movie he rides a horse off a cliff that is about 50ft high, while being chased by more Native Americans. Amazingly, despite everything that Glass goes through he manages to live, either through good fortune alone or his determination to get revenge, he’s like a cat with 9 lives.
As the film heads into the third act, the action soon returns with the same level of fierceness we saw in the opener. The final confrontation between Glass and Fitzgerald is another brilliant example of the director’s ability to shot stunning scenes in such a way that they look elegant while being Tarantino-level gruesome, the climax to this movie can easily hold its own against anything seen in the recent Hateful Eight movie.
With Dicaprio having won the Golden Globe for best actor and Inarritu winning best director they are now favourites to win big at the Oscars. While the actors performance is impressive, this is far from a career high for Dicaprio. With performances in movies like the Wolf of Wall Street getting very little Oscar buzz, it does feel like should he win the Oscar it is more because he deserves the recognition for his entire career than this one movie. A lack of any real serious competition may also work in his favour with Michael Fassbender’s performance in ‘Steve Jobs’ being the other real contender.
While The Revenant is very much a Dicaprio film, the supporting cast do extremely well when they do get some screen time. Tom Hardy has had a great year with Mad Max and now The Revenant, playing both parts extremely well but overshadowed by Charlie Theron and Dicaprio. The other highlight here for me was Will Poulter, a good upcoming British actor who could see his role here as the breakthrough into bigger and better things after some impressive smaller roles in The Maze Runner and We’re The Millers.
Inarritu does an amazing job of immersing you into the world he creates, with stunning shots of the American wilderness, fantastic action sequences of the bear mauling and Native American attack and how he brings the best out of Dicaprio. The artist approach which the director brings to the movie deserve recognition and so it’s not hard to see why awards season is likely to be big for him as well.
Inevitably, this movie isn’t perfect, with a runtime that feels much too long. Looking back, one of the subplots revolving around the Native American tribal leader looking for his daughter could have easily be cut without damaging the structure of the film as a whole. Despite this, and the somewhat erratic pace, it is still clear to see why The Revenant is getting plenty of Oscar buzz, with plenty of tropes that we have seen from Oscar winners in the past.