SYNOPSIS: In the 1800s, legendary explorer Hugh Glass (Leonardo Di-Caprio) is brutally attack by a bear. Seemingly on the verge of death, Glass’s hunting team are forced to leave him with two of their members for which one of them, John Fitzgerald (Tom Hardy), commits a terrible act that devastates the stricken hero. Despite his horrific injuries, Glass finds himself having to use his survival skills to trek through the American wilderness in order to reunite with his team and unleash his revenge on Fitzgerald.
Having landed Oscar glory with last year’s Broadway satire Birdman, Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu returns with his bleak and epic thriller The Revenant. Despite a troubled production, the film tells a powerful story about one man’s desperate bid to seek vengeance whilst trying to survive like any other species.
Those expecting a fast-paced revenge thriller will be disappointed as the two and a half hour film devotes a lot of time to our hero as he tries to make do with the current tools he has in difficult circumstances, something we saw similarly in the Tom Hanks survival drama Cast Away (2000). But Inarritu and his mesmerising team ensure that this feature is more superior in terms of the large production for which everything looks and feels authentic.
Right from the outset, we see Hugh Glass and his comrades being confronted by Native Americans in a stunning opening sequence that captures the horror of that uncomfortable period in American history. Acclaimed cinematographer Emmanuel Lubeski is the right man to call upon when tackling scenes like this as well as depicting the incredible landscape that the film is set in. The vivid wilderness setting is a character of its own with nearly every shot carefully staged and choreographed.
But the landmark moment comes from a jaw-dropping scene where our hero finds himself being confronted by a vicious (CGI) bear and leads to a tense and uncomfortable few minutes for both him and the audience. A sequence like this could have backfired disastrously but kudos must go to the crew and Leonardo Di-Caprio for making the scene feel real despite the silly controversy that has overshadowed it.
On the subject of Leo, it has to be said that unlike the ambitions of a certain red-kit wearing football team, this might actually be his year….in terms of the Oscar that is! Having produced some astonishing performances in his remarkable career, he embodies himself in the role of and puts so much effort into the physical demands that Glass would have to go through. Scenes of him eating raw meat and sleeping inside a dead horse are just examples of how dedicated Di-Caprio is for this kind of portrayal and hopefully Oscar glory will finally come his way in Feburary.
Having played Mad Max and the Kray Brothers recently, Tom Hardy adds firm support as the troubled Fitzgerald whose shocking actions ultimately make him become the villain. At times, you can’t help but pity his situation especially as he driven more by fear than hate but nevertheless it all comes down to a brutal yet well-staged showdown between him and Glass. Special mention must also go to the hardworking Domnhall Gleeson who continues to shine with his turn as the hunting team’s conflicted leader.
On the downside, the plot does suffer through elements of the story that never actually happened particularly in the film’s final hurdle but by then, we forget about that as we root for Glass to get the justice he deserves.
In the end, The Revenant is a poetic ode to the American wilderness and captures the savagery of that period effectively with Leonardo Di-Caprio taking centre stage in what could well be his Oscar-clinching role.