It’s a 2015 film set in the 1800’s. It’s beautifully shot on location (a grueling shoot, we get it), it’s got plenty of snow and blood, there’s lots of focus on a beverage container, and a man loses his, uh, assets. This is The Hateful Eight… but also The Revenant. The difference is that while Tarantino’s eighth film is laced with his infamous quick-wit dialogue, the script for Alejandro G. Iñárritu’s latest is mostly a wheezing Leonardo DiCaprio.
DiCaprio plays Hugh Glass, a member of a hunting team who, after being mauled by a bear, is essentially abandoned by his fellow frontiersmen. It’s an extended episode of I Shouldn’t Be Alive, with Glass somehow surviving attacks from Native Americans and Frenchmen, free falling, infections from that bear attack, and so forth. By his fifth miraculous moment I was over it, and yet, Iñárritu keeps one hooked through over 2 hours of this. While the score is predictable and occasionally clunky, the sound mixing is unbelievable. I’m not one to necessarily notice the surround sound in a theatre, but Revenant makes one feel as if he or she is in the middle of the frontier, whether it be a quiet nature scene or an attack. The attacks are definitely brutal but perhaps the second best part of the film, as they are intricately choreographed and shot with an energy hard to put into words. Just watch the first five minutes and you’ll understand.
The locations, as mentioned above, are undoubtedly beautiful; however, Iñárritu can try too hard, namely the desktop screensaver-esque images between scenes. Seriously, that northern lights shot was laughable. In these moments of too-good-to-be-true shots and CGI bison, what keeps the film grounded is its performances. Tom Hardy is insanely good as Fitzgerald, and seeing Domhnall Gleeson and Will Poulter were pleasant surprises. DiCaprio, our five-time Oscar nominee with zero wins, could win this year. At first I wanted to be mad about this, thinking it could be a win long overdue and consequently not based on the film. Glass experiences dreams of dead wife, but so did DiCaprio’s Cobb in Inception. DiCaprio ate raw fish (and bison liver), but so did Taran Killam in Hobbit Office and he didn’t get any praise (only somewhat kidding here). But… looking at his competition, and remembering Revenant‘s final shot, it’s easy to imagine Leo receiving a standing ovation as he accepts the award.
A coworker has repeatedly called The Revenant “the perfect man movie,” and while it’s far from perfect and isn’t a “man movie,” is is a very good revenge movie. Seeing it without the Academy Awards so close would’ve been a completely different experience, but alas, it’s the time of year where films fight to the death. Revenant is pretty good at that.