Starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Tom Hardy, Domhall Gleeson, Will Poulter, Forrest Goodluck, Duane Howard, Arthur Redcloud, Melaw Nakehk'o, Grace Dove. Directed by Alejandro G. Inarritu. (2015, 156 min). 20TH CENTURY FOX
Part of it is probably my age, coupled with the fact I still remember him as a cherub-faced little sitcom star and a heartthrob phenomenon after Titanic, that it has been difficult for me to take him completely seriously in adult roles. Even when working with Martin Scorsese, I always felt more like, There's Leo pretending to be Howard Hughes, or There's Leo playing cops & robbers. That's not a slam against him. DiCaprio's always been a good actor, perhaps one of the best of his generation. The problem was always mine because he still looked to me like little Luke from Growing Pains. I never had the same problem with Jodie Foster because she's my age and I sort-of grew up along with her.
However, I saw none of little Leo in The Revenant. All I saw was hardened fur trapper Hugh Glass, left-for-dead after a bear attack by fellow trapper John Fitzgerald (Tom Hardy), who also murders Glass' Indian son right in front of him. It's a revelatory performance in every way imaginable, and not once does the viewer find themselves thinking, There's Leo getting gritty. Instead, we're totally onboard for Glass' long, torturous struggle to survive for the sole purpose of revenge. That, more than anything, is why DiCaprio truly deserved the Oscar many fans felt was long overdue. This is the first time his immersion into a character is total and completely convincing (even more impressive when you consider he does it with relatively little actual dialogue).
Of course, it helps having director Alejandro G. Inarritu guide you along. Fresh from wowing the world last year with Birdman, this shift to a completely different kind of film (fraught with well-documented production difficulties) demonstrates a unique talent on par with the Scorsese and Coppola. His touch renders The Revenant much more than a (very) brutal tale of revenge. Like Birdman, it's also a narrative & technical triumph. Not only is it aesthetically beautiful and loaded with symbolism (even when the imagery is often disturbing), the journey is almost as emotionally exhausting for the viewer as it is for Glass.
DiCaprio & Inarritu can't take all the credit, though. Emmanuel Lubezki's cinematography renders the harsh Dakota landscape a character unto itself, and Tom Hardy once-again shows why he's currently the greatest chameleon of any actor working today (he was nominated for Best Supporting Actor, and should have won). Still, The Revenant ultimately depends primarily on DiCaprio's performance to pull the whole thing off. As such, it succeeds magnificently, since it wasn't until the end credits rolled that I was reminded that one man's grueling quest for bloody vengeance was made possible by the same kid who made middle school girls swoon in the 90s.
- "A World Unseen" (part making-of documentary, part environmental message...I would have preferred more of the former).
- Digital Copy