The Revenant (2015)
Starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Tom Hardy, Domhnall Gleeson and Will Poulter.
Directed by Alejandro G Iñárritu.
What sort of fan am I for only just getting round to watching Leo’s long awaited Oscar winning performance?! I, like so many others, have been rooting for him to finally win this prestigious award, having felt he was robbed on so many occasions in recent years. Wolf of Wall Street comes to mind, and I think even Leo was slightly surprised if not mildly offended to win best comedy performance for it at The Golden Globes. Anyway, he’s finally won an Oscar and this is why.
I’m going to go against all the critics and say I found the story itself really dull. I mean, if this is a subject that interests you then it would have proved really thrilling but for me, I didn’t entirely understand what was going on other than the fact Leo was out for revenge after moderately recovering from a viscous bear attack. I didn’t really get what they were doing in the woods in the first place, I didn’t get the relationships and overall, the narrative just didn’t excite me. I guess that is a huge part of a movie-going experience but fear not! All is not lost.
As a huge fan of cinematography, I had a lot of time for this film. It was simply stunning. Iñárritu clearly let ace cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki spread his wings, and show he’s evidently not slacking after winning consecutive Oscars for Gravity and Birdman. With beautiful locations and set, any camera crew would be in heaven. The movie opens with a moment of serene beauty, gliding Terrence-Malick-like through a waterlogged forest as Glass (Leo) and his son hunt, just outside camp. Warriors then burst out of the trees, cueing an eruption of carnage. It’s a mesmerising, violent piece of action choreography, as Iñárritu’s camera glides through the chaos. One edgy limber Steadicam shot pursues a character until he’s killed, then switches to the killer until he’s dispatched too, and so on, mounting and dismounting a horse and even plunging into water to capture a drowning. Argh, it was just spectacular. This was just one of many beautifully shot scenes, which would prove a master class in any capacity.
And then, we come to the acting. The acting was like nothing I had EVER seen before. The supporting cast were involved and committed, and uniformly terrific. Will Poulter, what a way to seize the opportunity. For someone just breaking into the industry, if he took just one look around him during those nine months I can only imagine what he was thinking. Hardy as well, channelling his inner Bane again with a hint of Forest from Lawless was, as you can imagine NOT disappointing.
So begins what Empire and other leading critics term The Passion Of The Leo. The large swathes of the film its DiCaprio on his own, flinging himself into every harsh scenario. He is hypnotically good, whether scraping marrow out of a frozen bone, going Gollum on a fish, or keeping himself warm literally inside a horse. He has maybe a dozen lines of dialogue, most of which are rasped through a torn throat, but you root for him with all your heart. I found it hard to believe an actor would throw so much into a role as he did. You see actors gaining or losing weight for a role, growing a beard or shaving everything off, or deciding to method act months before shooting to really encapsulate their character. Leo though, like seriously? I can talk forever but you’ll only truly understand what I mean when you watch it. He has absolutely raised the bar in every sense of the word, and cemented his status in Hollywood and beyond. If it didn’t already, every project from now on will turn to gold the minute Leo touches it.
Leo spoke a lot about his director during press and awards season and it really makes sense now. It was as much a force on screen as it was off. This was Iñárritu’s show. Some directors might have been tempted to follow an Oscar win by making a cushy comedy in the Bahamas – but the driven Iñárritu pushed himself and his crew to the limits against the elements. Leo mentioned a change of location had to be made due to melting ice, but Iñárritu defied conventional wisdom by shooting with natural light only, and in chronological order. As a result, The Revenant has emerged as something we have never seen before.
The narrative wasn’t for me, but The Revenant project itself is simply ridiculous. I’ll give it a four, but I would hold no grudge to anyone who argues a five.