With a title like The Revenant, one would expect a ghost story along the lines of Oscar-nominated films like The Sixth Sense and The Exorcist. There are definitely scenes in The Revenant that rival horror movies, but this film is an epic equally filled with scenic beauty.
In the American Frontier during 1823, fur trapper Hugh Glass (Leonardo DiCaprio) has joined Captain Andrew Henry’s (Domhnall Gleeson) party. Glass mentors his son, a Native American named Hawk (Forrest Goodluck), much to the dismay of John Fitzgerald (Tom Hardy), a trapper who was scalped by an Indian tribe some years before.
After some quick character introductions, the party is attacked by an Indian tribe. When retreating by boat down the river, Glass and Captain Henry rationalize that the boat is more of a target than an escape. The party set off walking to find a safe haven in Fort Kiowa.
While on foot, Glass is viciously attacked by a bear. In an immobile state, Glass witnesses Fitzgerald’s cruelty and cowardice as he is left for dead. Glass, however, rises from his wounds to seek revenge upon his enemy.
Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) won the Best Picture Oscar and was directed by The Revenant’s director, Alejandro González Iñárritu. Both films are a study between contrasts – Birdman features urban self absorption, while The Revenant features rugged individualism in wide open spaces. Both stories are strongly told and Iñárritu deserves his accolades this awards season.
If the previous award presentations are any indicator, DiCaprio is due to receive his Best Actor Oscar. In all of his previous Oscar nominations, there was something “Movie Star” about his performances, like a manufactured Oscar nominee. In spite of grisly scenes of violence, DiCaprio gives an understated performance that is character appropriate. A bug-eyed brute with the emotional maturity of a 12-year-old, Tom Hardy steals the movie with a complete performance.
With 12 Oscar nominations, The Revenant is worth seeing on the big screen. Clocking in over two-and-a-half hours, the film feels longer in a good way. With natural lighting and minimal production techniques, this film is good storytelling based on snippets of history. When the film concludes, it is breathtakingly exhausting, which was the filmmaker’s intention, for the first line of dialogue is “If you can grab breath, you can keep fighting.”