Leonardo DiCaprio has been in more films worthy of an academy award than probably anyone, but never has he been in something worthy of so many nominations. Best Actor, Best Supporting Actor, Best Score, Best Cinematography, Best Director, the list could go on. Thinking about what categories this film should be considered in is almost as exhausting as it was to watch the tribulations Leo and his supporting cast were put through for the filming of it. Unforgiving landscapes and natural effects make a beautiful environment for this tale of betrayal and vengeance that is so gritty and terrifying, you will be short of breath by the time you reach the end of the first act. For those curious about this film, I’m here to assure you, The Revenant was one of the best films of the year.
This unsettling story opens with a rather large group of trappers being viciously attacked by Native Americans. Spanning shots engage our eyes with the brutal carnage ensuing between the two opposing cultures. Half of the men are able to flee on rafts, grabbing up as many pelts as they can hold. Commanding this group of men is Captain Henry, played by Domhnall Gleeson. Their mission is to hunt and prepare pelts across the Louisiana Purchase in the 1820’s. They’ve been slowed down due to the Natives being hot on their tail, killing many of their men. Things are made worse when one of their more experienced hunters, Hugh Glass (Leonoardo Dicaprio), is mauled by a mother grizzly bear in one of the most savage scenes I’ve had the pleasure of watching this year. With such gut-wrenching damage done to Glass, Captain Henry has to think seriously about leaving the dying man behind in favor of keeping his men moving and off the radar of the on-coming Native Savages. After much deliberation, the Captain chooses to offer a higher pay to the men willing to stay behind with Glass while he heals. Though Henry has little confidence the man will survive, his honor forbids him from killing one of his own men. Along with Glass’s own half-Native son, Hawk (Forest Goodluck), the young Jim Bridger, played by Will Poulter, volunteers to stay behind. Wanting to capitalize on the large payout for the job, John Fitzgerald, played by Tom Hardy, also volunteers but he has no aspirations of helping Hugh Glass survive.
Before we even have the chance to see any of this amazing casts performances, we are inundated with some of the most beautiful cinematography I’ve ever seen. Alejandro González Iñárritu is known for his slow pans and continuous shots but I did not expect that style to work so nicely with a western such as this one. The Birdman Director chose to shoot under some of the harshest conditions in Argentina, Canada and the US and put his cast through some of the most grueling environments any actor has ever experienced. Leo even said in a post-screening Q&A that The Revenant was the most difficult film for him to make, siting several long running single takes shot in 30-below freezing weather. I realize that movies have been hard to make for a long time and some directors put their casts through some torturous scenarios to achieve their sometimes insane visions, but I am floored by this casts performance under such conditions.
I walked out of the theatre very impressed with DiCaprio, as I usually am, but I couldn’t help but focus on the supporting cast of this film. Domhnall Gleeson has shown over and over again in 2015 alone how much range he has as an actor, doing wonderfully in both early 2015’s Ex Machina, as well as the largest box office hit in US history, Star Wars: A force Awakens. I can only look on in sheer excitement for what’s to come in his career. Twenty-Two year old Will Poulter also shined through in this production, showing me he isn’t destined for comedy. I’ve been consistently amazed by Tom Hardy with each movie he is in, but his portrayal of John Fitzgerald was maddening. You will never have hated someone more than you will by time the credits roll. I also have to mention the most chilling monologue in the film in which Fitzgerald recounts his story of being scalped. Tom Hardy conveys that anger so well, and it ultimately comes out in the climax at the end.
With such an amazing cast, it was no surprise to see the lengths they would go to achieve Inarritu’s vision, although, there was no Bear Rape. For being yet another reason Leonardo DiCaprio deserves an Academy Award, I give The Revenant 5 out of 5 Nerdskulls.