Leonardo DiCaprio embarks on a quest for survival through harsh terrain in this artfully vengeful Oscar-winning masterpiece. ★★★★★
When a film begins to trailer a good two months prior to its release date, the viewer is left to assume one of two things; The First: that said film has a really big budget to recoup or – Second: that this film is being plugged, shamelessly, for Oscar season. Occasionally, both are true and, even less often, they actually turn out to be worth the hype.
From the first viewing of the tense, adrenaline fuelled trailer, it was apparent that The Revenant was one such film (it cost $135 million), and as seems to be perquisite these days, we are treated to approximately 90% of the plot in the promo alone. Native American attacks, bear mailings and live burials are no spoiler. Set in hostile US territory circa 1823 and based on real life events, The Revenant follows the tale of intrepid explorer Hugh Glass (Leonardo DiCaprio) and the events following his being severely injured during the aforementioned bear attack. The remaining members of the pelt-hunting crew drag him along for as far as they dare before Captain Andrew Henry (Domhnall Gleeson) and co push onwards for help, leaving Glass with his son Hawk (Forrest Goodluck), naive youth Jim Bridger (Will Poulter) and poacher John Fitzgerald (Tom Hardy), whose outlook is as harsh and unrelenting as the terrain.
We all know what happens next, thanks to that over-revealing trailer; Fitzgerald thinks it kinder to snuff Glass and be gone, much to the distress of Hawk, who Fitzgerald murders whilst Glass looks on and buries him in a shallow grave. It’s quick, shocking and tense, and it is the start of our intrepid chase across the wilderness. For a film that is nigh on two and a half hours long, director Alejandro G. Iñárritu – he of Birdman (2014) fame, for which he won multiple Academy Awards in 2015 – creates a pace and ambience that drives the inhabitants of this world onwards in a quest to escape the peril and solitude. It is a testament to DiCaprio’s earnest performance as Glass that, despite being the sole entity onscreen for the majority of the film, he conveys more emotion via his eyes and body language than many an actor struggles to do with their voice. He (and the rest of the cast and crew, for that matter) is certainly put through the ringer; clambering in and out of frozen rivers, sleeping in animal carcasses, chowing down on raw bison liver (DiCaprio is vegetarian) and the constant threat of hypothermia were no doubt contributory factors that saw the actor
finally being awarded an Oscar for Best Actor.