Leonardo Grylls – ★★★★★
On Thursday last The Revenant picked up 12 Oscar nominations including the heavy hitters of film, director and actor. So does it deserve these accolades? Yes, on all three counts. Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu has delivered a breath-taking art house western which will join the canon and sit shoulder to shoulder with the greats of the genre. Reminiscent of the best of Terrence Malick and Coppola’s Apocalypse Now, The Revenant is a film that must be seen on the big screen and probably more than once.
The set up is simple Hugh Glass (Leonardo DiCaprio) is helping get a group of men trading in pelts back to the safety of their camp. When attacked by a bear the men must leave him or risk all their deaths. John Fitzgerald (Tom Hardy) is charged with staying with him until the end so he can be afforded a proper burial. Fitzgerald despises Glass and killing his son Hawk (Forest Goodluck) he leaves Glass for dead. Fitzgerald heads off to catch up to the main party unaware that Glass spurned on by his unquenchable thirst for revenge is hot on his trail. Running alongside this tale is a “The Searchers in reverse” tale whereby a tribe of Indians are looking for a kidnapped woman, Powaqa (Melaw Nakehk’o). They will stop at nothing and make short work of those who stand in there way.
Tom Hardy is fantastic as Fitzgerald making you despise every fire of his being. The supporting cast are exemplary with Domhnall Gleeson playing an out of his depth Captain and Will Poulter as the well meaning battle scared boy. Even though Hawk and Glass’s time on screen is short they manage to conjure up a believable and heart felt father son relationship which is the core of the film. While all the cast are strong the piece belongs to Leo and when he wins his Oscar come February he need not worry if it’s tokenism. It must surely rank as a performance with the fewest words spoken to win a best actor Oscar, leaving aside The Artist’s Jean Dujardin. In comparison to his brash and outlandish, yet thoroughly enjoyable performance in last years The Wolf of Wall Street here DiCaprio is more intense and resolute in his mission.
Inarritu is a master with the camera and has a superb eye for a scene, there are at least five shots in the film that make you pause and reveal in their beautiful simplicity. Fire is his best friend when it comes to lighting and allowing the camera lens to fog and dirty brings another dimension of reality to the adventure making us feel like we’re right there beside our protagonist.
Like all good westerns it’s a fable or mirror of today’s society. We are all destroying the environment we inhabit and as caught up and petty as we get we are reminded that the world was here long before we showed up and Mother Nature will easily wipe us out without a second thought.
For my screening of The Revenant I had to sit in a semi broken seat, certain lights kept turning on at random points and the people beside me had a packed lunch, whispering more than an acceptable amount. In spite of all this I knew I was watching something incredibly special which nothing could take away from. The Revenant is a rare beast in cinema these days, a film with a soul. It’s only the second week of the year and I think I’ve seen my favourite film.
The Revenant opens Friday the 15 of January 2016