What does Leonardo DiCaprio have to do to win an Oscar? In The Revenant, there have been rumours that his character gets raped by a grizzly bear. That should probably do it. Leo plays Hugh Glass, an 1820s frontiersman who is on a hunting expedition in the wilderness along with his mixed race son, when his team are attacked by Native Americans. Glass is then savaged (but not raped) by a bear, leaving him with horrendous injuries. Although two men (Tom Hardy’s Fitzgerald and Will Poulter’s Bridger) are left with Glass and his son to watch over him and give him a proper burial when the time comes, Fitzgerald betrays Glass and leaves him for dead and with a bitter taste for revenge. Glass must survive alone in the wilderness and find the men responsible for killing his son.
The Revenant is a story of rebirth and revenge, a howl for tolerance and a poetic, tragic look back at an America that has all but disappeared. It might seem like a deceptively simple story; man is mauled, must survive his injuries and being left to die, and man seeks revenge against those who wronged him, but there’s much more beneath the surface. It’s hero is a man who has embraced America and it’s native inhabitants, whereas Tom Hardy’s Fitzgerald is a ruthless, self-serving bastard whose intolerance and hatred seethes inside him. They aren’t particularly complex characters, but their eventual showdown becomes much more than a bloody brutal fight between two men.
The scale of the suffering of the characters (and the cast and crew) is all up on screen. The camera lens is constantly fogged up by the actors’ breath, reminding just how damn cold it is. The beards are pure icicles and the shivers rack through the actors’ bodies. By getting his team out into the untouched parts of Canada and Argentina’s harshest backwoods, Inarritu has pushed them to the limit and The Revenant’s ode to suffering feels more real than it could ever have felt if any of this had been faked. If Oscars were given out for effort, Inarritu and his crew and actors should be applauded for getting away from the green screens and California sunshine and making their movie in one of the most inhospitable environments imaginable.
Nature is the real star of The Revenant. It dwarves the characters. It’s the most vicious antagonist, but also the helper that aids Leo’s Glass most in his escape from other men. He uses waterfalls, cliffs and dead horses to survive. The landscapes are impossible to fake and The Revenant gets its real power from being filmed out in the incredible wilderness. One scene sees Leo crawl to the edge of a cliff. The sight of a massive river cutting through the earth far below the cliff is nothing short of breathtaking. DOP Emmanuel Lubezki savours it all, making this look like the bloodiest, but most beautiful Malick movie you’ve ever seen.
Filmmaking should be hard. But The Revenant takes the challenges of bringing a story to the screen to a new level. The struggle to make this film is reflected in every frame. It’s a brutal film, born out of brutal conditions. Don’t just give Leo his Oscar at last; everyone involved deserves an award for their commitment.
Watch the Trailer:
Inside Out Review