#REVIEW: “THE REVENANT”
Review by David Baldwin for Mr. Will Wong
Leonardo DiCaprio will win Best Actor at this year’s Academy Awards. I may seem foolish to make such a bold prediction this early, but after you experience his exhausting, gripping and visceral performance in The Revenant, I have a feeling you might agree too.
Set in the 1820s, American frontiersman Hugh Glass (DiCaprio) is brutally mauled by a bear and then left for dead by his hunting team. Glass survives and makes his way across the dangerous frozen landscape, looking for redemption and revenge against one man: John Fitzgerald (Tom Hardy).
Despite taking multiple Academy Awards and major accolades with last year’s wildly-audacious Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance), Alejandro González Iñárritu and his Director of Photography Emmanuel “Chivo” Lubezki have truly outdone themselves with their work in The Revenant. This is spectacular filmmaking unlike anything made this year. From the moment the Film starts, Iñárritu and Lubezki create a meticulously-realized world that only begins to hint at just how excruciatingly difficult it must have been to stage. The rich details, the minimal lighting, the breathtaking landscapes, the incredible single takes; there is so much to look at and admire that I simply cannot compound it all in a single review. Immediately after the Film ended, I wanted to rewatch in sync with a documentary showing just how every shot was composed (take note Blu-ray producers!).
But the Film’s look is also going to infuriate many. Some scenery shots go on way too long, and some shots seem to exist simply to prove Chivo can pull them off without overusing CGI. I enjoyed the gritty realism of having the camera come so close to the action that the actors are fogging up the screen from breathing so hard, but did we really need to frame more than half the shots looking up at the actors from below their waists? This is a one-of-a-kind Art Film, but at an exhaustive and unforgiving 156-minutes, I feel like we could have used a bit of brevity in some sequences.
He speaks desperately few words (many not even in English), but DiCaprio has delivered another brilliant performance – maybe even the best of his already incredible career. He puts every ounce of strength he can into Glass, and then gives even more. The physicality of the performance is just staggering; he makes the character feel lived in and genuinely authentic. His battle with the bear is ferocious, both in terms of its graphic violence and the intensity DiCaprio gives off. And it happens very early into the Film, so if you are at all adverse to experiencing and feeling every wince of pain, every injury and every single hurdle he must go through to get his revenge, then The Revenant might not be for you. DiCaprio is in his method throughout, whether he is struggling to walk on his mangled foot, dodging arrows while swimming through rapids, or even frantically cutting through a dead horse to take shelter. This is the kind of legendary material that does not come around often, and it would be absurd to see him go unrewarded for such a daunting performance.
Will Poulter (of We’re the Millers), 2015 Film-MVP Domhnall Gleeson and relative newcomer Forrest Goodluck all stand out amongst the supporting cast, but are all overshadowed by an absolutely ruthless turn from Hardy. He already stunned this year with his dual turn in Legend, but he is even better here. We know immediately after his introduction not to trust Hardy’s Fitzgerald, and for good reason. This is a diabolical and deviously evil man, with a fractured past we only are privy to few details of. But that does not matter – Hardy conveys and hints at just enough to truly fear him. Just watching the crazy flicker in his eyes is enough to cause you to shudder. He cannot quite match DiCaprio’s intensity, but he does not need to. He chews on everything he can, and delivers one of 2015’s most memorable villains.
The Revenant is one hell of a brutally-unique experience, and one that will not be easily equaled. Iñárritu and Chivo have pushed the medium to the limit, and have composed an uncompromising and magnificently detailed Picture. DiCaprio equally pushes himself, delivering a stunning and masterful performance that may go down as the best of his career. This is the real deal, and is truly unmissable on the big screen. If Oscar knows what’s good for him, he’ll be calling your name this February, Leo.
20th Century Fox release THE REVENANT in select theatres Friday, December 25, 2015.