22 years after his first Oscar nomination for What’s Eating Gilbert Grape’, Leonardo DiCaprio is the front-runner for this year’s best actor gong for his role in Alejandro G. Innaritu (Babel, Birdman)’s The Revenant. And just as well, it’s all about him.
Based on Michael Punke’s novel, The Revenant is the mythical story of frontiersman and fur trapper Hugh Glass (DiCaprio) who is mauled by a bear then abandoned and left for dead by fellow trapper (Tom Hardy) to save his own skin. Driven by a remarkable desire to live, he crawls and staggers his way home to exact bloody revenge.
Shot in the undisturbed vistas of Canada and Argentina in crystalline high definition, the beauty of the brooding, dark mountains covered in shimmering, treacherous snow with tall, immovable trees scattered across the expansive landscape battled by snowstorms is, stunning.
The plateau shots draw your eye into the tough, unforgivable terrain spreading as far as the eye can see, as limitless and unpredictable as it is wild. Director and writer Innaritu wants you to think this of his characters too but the visual feast on offer is far more satisfying than tales of uninspiring characters in a plot that doesn’t allow an able cast (Tom Hardy, Domhall Gleeson, Will Poulter to name but a few) to do more than trek across frozen rivers, mountains, forests in snowstorms fleeing from a Pawnee search party with the only their wits, a few rifles, fur skins and shaggy beards to keep warm.
And so it falls upon DiCaprio to carry the movie in the way you’d expect Daniel Day-Lewis in Lincoln (2012) or even a McConaughey in Dallas Buyer’s Club (2013). The hallmarks of Oscar worthy performance are present; shocking physical transformation in this case bear mauling works a treat.
There is plenty of adversity to endure too. Unlike Lincoln where Sally Field offers a sensitive essential performance in a small role and Jared Leto almost steals the show in Dallas Buyer’s Club. DiCaprio’s closest co-star is suffering. Bloody, violent, gory, suffering. The Revenant often feels like a showcase for how much suffering he is willing to endure for his art.
An intelligent and thoughtful actor, DiCaprio has impressed with his film choices, a man who doesn’t seem to rest on his laurels by teaming up with equally interesting directors. And yet The Revenant seems to be racing down the well-trodden path of offering up half-starved, preferably bloodied actors in biopics to the Academy in exchange for Oscar.
Would I watch it again? I don’t know. With breath taking cinematography, a soaring soundtrack and visceral action sequences you think you’d walk away feeling more marked by the experience.
Written by OnTrax Reviewer Jo Ingabire.