After watching Alejandro González Iñárritu’s latest film “The Revenant,” I was struck with a burning desire to be a mountain man alive in the early 1800s. A part of me wanted to trade in my 2015 comforts for an earlier time when the wild frontier was beautiful. I can picture it now. I would escape the confines of my cozy bedroom where I spend a majority of my time eating Hot Pockets while binging “Shark Tank,” and set out to explore the titillating magnificence of nature.
“The Revenant” showcased the beauty of the wild in a way that’s never been done before, and part of the film made me want to grow a glorious mountain man beard, wrap a bear pelt around me to keep me warm and set out to see the what the world has to offer.
But then there’s the rest of the film, which made me want to cuddle into a ball and never go outside again. There’s evil out there. You would be crazy to want to explore the great outdoors after realizing that behind the gorgeously serene environment rests a harshness that threatens to destroy everything.
I mean out there in the abyss are bears that will try to maul you to death, blizzards that are just begging to take away fingers and toes, savage natives that will pump you full of arrows and scalp you before you even realize they’re there and murderous Tom Hardy’s that threaten to kill the things you hold most dear in life. No thank you, I want to stay indoors. And that’s the true magic of “The Revenant.” It captivates you with its absolutely stunning landscapes, but shocks you with its unflinching viciousness. It’s either beautifully brutal or brutally beautiful. I still haven’t decided which one yet.
The film stars Leonardo DiCaprio as frontiersman Hugh Glass, who guides a hunting team back to civilization with his Native American son Hawk. A series of incredibly unfortunate events leaves Glass horribly wounded, and is forced to watch bitter huntsman Fitzgerald (a superb Tom Hardy) kill his son and leave Glass for dead.
No just kidding, of course that isn’t the end! Through sheer force of will, Glass pulls himself back from death in order to hunt down the man who killed his son. Of course this is a Leonardo DiCaprio film, so let’s talk about the obvious question everyone immediately jumps to: Will Leo finally win an Oscar? I’m calling it right here. Yes, Leo will finally walk away with an Academy Award this year, quelling the internet of its favorite joke.
Now here’s the catch. This isn’t Leo’s best performance, but it is his most engaging. He’s not flashy or charismatic like he has been in the past, but as an audience we feel every bit of pain Leo goes through, and trust me, there’s a lot of pain. This movie is so mercilessly honest, so visceral, that I wouldn’t be surprised if Leo actually endured all the hardships his character went through. I mean think about—the internet believes that inside Leo rests a desperate hunger that will never be satisfied until it’s struck Oscar gold.
Is it really that hard to believe that the method actor would impregnate a Native American, raise the child well into his teens to foster a deep emotional attachment, then refuse to look away as Tom Hardy kills him? Wouldn’t it be such a Leo thing to do to let himself get mauled by a grizzly bear in order to stagger up on stage to say generic Oscar statements like “I was so unprepared for this” or “This is heavier than I thought it would be” or “Help I’ve been mauled by a bear?”
I wouldn’t be surprised at all. Leo’s performance sells his character’s struggles and now if I ever meet Leo in person, the only thing I’m going to want to ask him is if he actually carved out the insides of dead horse and crawled inside to keep warm.
And then there’s Tom Hardy who deserves way more than this one paragraph I’m devoting to him. The dude deserves all the adjectives for awesome, and if it wasn’t for my gut feeling that the Academy is going to award Sylvester Stallone for Best Supporting Actor for actually acting for once in a Rocky film, I would say Hardy would be a lock for the award.
He creates one of the most engaging and interesting villains in recent memory, and he does it all with his weird mumble he’s becoming known for. It doesn’t matter if you can’t exactly make out what he’s saying, because his eyes tell you everything you need to know.
I bet the scariest part of making this movie wasn’t the literal hell the cast and crew went through, but rather it was standing next to Tom Hardy, unsure whether he would kill you right there on the spot for looking at him wrong. “The Revenant” is the type of film that could easily win Best Picture. It has two fantastic performances, excellent directing and out-of-this-world cinematography. It’s worth seeing for any one of those traits on its own, but combine all three of them and you get a tense, well-made film that deserves a lot of recognition.
It’s not perfect, the story drags a little and the big thematic statements that Iñárritu swings for don’t quite connect as well as they should, but it’s certainly ambitious with its beauty and its brutality. A standard every movie should strive to meet.
Overall Grade: A-