The Revenant is a tour de force. For Leonardo DiCaprio. And for director/co-writer Alejandro Inarritu. Awards are coming. Maybe, just maybe, a best actor nod for LD.
Leo’s character Hugh Glass is part of a group of hunter/trappers who, nearly two centuries ago, gather pelts in the wilderness of western America. Following a violent attack by Indians, the men escape downriver on a raft.
As they continue their journey on land, a bear attacks Glass. A big bear. The episode is brutally depicted. With help from his mixed race son Hawk (Forrest Goodluck), Glass survives. Soon he is left to die by Glass’s partner John Fitzgerald (Tom Hardy) who has killed Hawk. But he’s not quite dead.
Despite having limited movement and limited resources, Glass begins the long journey back to the fur company’s headquarters. His adventure is grueling, but the survival instinct is strong. A fortunate encounter with an Indian who provides food and temporary shelter provides hope. The goal is to stay alive and to extract revenge.
A revenant is one who returns after death or a long absence. Not long after company leader Captain Henry (Domhnall Gleeson) is told by Fitzgerald that Glass has died, Henry is shocked to learn Glass is still alive. As is Fitzgerald!
Inarritu, who won the directing Oscar last year for Birdman, is a true cinematic artist. His visuals include gorgeous vistas of sky and unspoiled frontier, contrasted with horrifying images of physically damaged humans and animals. His lingering extreme close-ups are effective in revealing the pain of the central characters. His presentation of a dream Glass has about his son is heartbreaking.
And that soundtrack! It is stirring and relentless, utilizing drums that recall the Birdman soundtrack along with full orchestrations that underline the tense drama.
Because of its grisly content (including the grizzly content), The Revenant may not be for everyone. But if you can handle the violence and the gore, you’ll be rewarded with a memorable film experience. And you might even see an Oscar-winning acting performance from Leo!