The Revenant (2016) aka The Great DiCaprio/Hardy Acting Smackdown


Directed by Alejandro González Iñárritu (as Alejandro G. Iñárritu)

Written by Mark L. Smith (screenplay), Alejandro González Iñárritu (screenplay) (as Alejandro G. Iñárritu)

The blurb: “While exploring the uncharted wilderness in 1823, legendary frontiersman Hugh Glass (Leonardo DiCaprio) sustains injuries from a brutal bear attack. When his hunting team leaves him for dead, Glass must utilize his survival skills to find a way back home to his beloved family. Grief-stricken and fueled by vengeance, Glass treks through the wintry terrain to track down John Fitzgerald (Tom Hardy), the former confidant who betrayed and abandoned him”

I have to confess to having put off watching The Revenant, despite the glowing reviews it was garnering. Having hated Innaritu’s last directorial offering, Birdman (all style, no substance), and also having had real issues with DiCaprio’s last outings in The Great Gatsby and The Wolf of Wall Street, I was not rushing to the cinema. However, having had it pointed out that the film also contained Domhnall Gleeson and Tom Hardy (usually marks of quality) I decided I’d ignore my reservations and throw myself into the bleak wilderness and I’m very glad I did.

The Revenant is unremittingly bleak in all aspects, from it’s visceral depiction of Glass’s struggle against nature (both animal and otherwise) to his battle with his emotional journey. However, despite the story being billed as one of survival and revenge, it contains a strange spirituality. The landscape itself becomes one of the main characters in the film, with nature working with Glass as well as against him.

Of course the main reason folk are running to cinemas to see the film is DiCaprio’s acting turn, which critics have decided will be the one which will finally win him that elusive Oscar. Now it’s a good performance, but by no means his best work. DiCaprio doesn’t so much act as react to his environment. It’s fairly understated, and that was clearly a choice, but the environment often steals the show. When the audience should be concentrating on Glass’s emotional journey often we find ourselves marvelling at the power of nature.

Controversially, I’d say the better performances come from Poulter, Hardy and Gleeson. All three put in performances which would have been worthy of the best supporting actor role (I will be rooting for Tom Hardy, regardless) in another year.

Innaritu’s direction is also sublime, the cinematography breath-taking and the soundtrack perfectly pitched. However the CGI animals did jar me out of the cinematic universe somewhat, which was surprising given how well-crafted other aspects of the film were.

The Revenant is both dark and spiritual, visually arresting and provides an acting masterclass, so is well worth catching it while it’s still on the big screen.

9 out of 10



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