The Revenant, 2015
Directed by Alejandro González Iñárritu
Starring: Leonardo DiCaprio, Tom Hardy, Domhnall Gleeson, Will Poulter, Forrest Goodluck
Hugh Glass is a fur trapper in 1820's America. He and his Native American son have a close bond, and his son, Hawk, is everything to Glass. But after Glass is mauled by a bear and hardly alive, Glass's compatriot Fitzgerald kills Hawk and leaves Glass for dead. But Glass won't be kept down. He rises from the grave he's been left in, determined to track down Fitzgerald, to survive, and to exact his revenge.
The Revenant was probably my #1 most anticipated movie for this year. It was the following up of Iñárritu's last years Best Picture winner, it was starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Tom Hardy, and just sounded like an incredible story. I've been predicting Leo is going to win this Oscar for almost an entire year now, without changing my predictions. At this point, I still see no reason to change it.
Leo gives the performance of a lifetime here. In a role that's mostly silently, almost entirely physical, and is so dependent on Leo's face and eyes, it's a role unlike anything we've seen from him before. Never before have I realize how incredibly expressive Leo's eyes are. It's this part alone that he nails the role, and the emotions and heartbreak within in. Yes, Leo's Glass is driven by revenge, but even more so, he is driven by his love for his son, and the wife he also has lost. It's not often anger we see in Glass's eyes, but heartbreak and sadness and pain. It's definitely not his most talkative performance, but Leo is able to convey so much without needing to say much at all.
In fact, there were many periods of the film where the film isn't afraid to leave the film silent. No voice over, no dialogue, but emotions conveyed through the scenery around the characters, the music, and the characters faces. This film is incredibly spiritual and felt very in touch with the scenery it's displaying. I know many people have mentioned this movie just being incredibly "masculine", but that's never really a sense I got from this movie. This film had it's characters become parts of the nature around them. Glass has an incredible spiritual journey, not just a physical one. This is a movie with lots of tears, with love, and with passion. Yes, it's a film about men, but Iñárritu lets his men feel a variety of emotions, and never ashamedly so. This is a movie about the internal human conflict, the will to survive, and the power of love.
As well, how can I talk about this movie and not mention Emmanuel Lubezki's stunning cinematography? Once again, Emmanuel "Chivo" Lubezki delivers some of the most visceral and beautiful work. I mean, this is hardly any surprise, but it really is incredible. His choice to film only with natural light gives this movie such a beauty. It really reinforces the idea of the characters being a part of nature. It makes us feel so submerged in the surroundings. The surroundings itself were so gorgeous. The films extensive use of Canada, as well as some locations in the US and Argentina, are so incredibly beautiful. While I would never want to take the journey that Glass does, there were so many of these locations I'd love to walk through.
While Leo was by and away the star of the film, there are definitely several other mentions I need to make. First and foremost, is Tom Hardy. The fact that Tom Hardy is mainly being overlooked in this awards race is appalling. While I wouldn't necessarily say this is Hardy's all-time best work, it's definitely fantastic work deserving of recognition. Hardy is a master at playing awful people and rounding them out with humanity. And once again, he does so here. While I felt his character could've been expanded on a little more, and Hardy didn't have all that much to work with, he was still able to capture such a range of emotion and feeling, and channel that into a despicable character, but without crossing into caricature. Will Poulter should also get a shout out, as the poor young man who is always being manipulated and taken advantage of. Poulter plays one of the most sympathetic characters in the film, and plays Bridger with such innocence. Also, Domhnall Gleeson is increasingly becoming a favourite of mine. Here again, he does some fine work Captain Henry, the leader of the fur trapping group. A good man, determined to do his best and lead his men well, Gleeson is solid here.
Also, there are so many new faces of Native American actors. In fact, Native Americans are given some great treatment here. Showing that the Americans were not finitely good or bad, and that the Native Americans as well were not finitely either, Iñárritu displays the rough relationship but also gives such respect to their culture, language, and character development. It's such a pleasure to see the grey areas seemingly accurately portrayed, non-problematically.
In all, The Revenant is a cold, bloody film about the will to survive. It's a beautiful story about a fathers love for his family, the grief he feels at their loss. While I didn't love it as much as I had hoped I would, it was still an incredibly beautiful story. However, the film was very long. This in itself is not a bad thing, but some parts felt a little long, and some of the characters could've been given more development. While I felt the relationship between Glass and his son was fantastic, I would've loved to have gotten more of Fitzgerald and some of his motives. The bear scene was incredible, and the final 15 minutes of the movie were so well-executed and were so incredibly tense. It's a beautiful film about love, loss and the fight to live. Leo 100% deserves that Oscar, and this is the perfect vehicle to get him there.