The Revenant
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The Revenant

Gorgeous to look at, this romantic survivalist revenger has the heart of an ice pick.

Based, we are told on a true story, Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu’s breathtakingly stunning tale begins as legendary explorer Hugh Glass and his pelt hunting team are attacked by a tribe of Indians, seeking the Chief’s daughter, a few skins they can carry away, and an opportunity to chase the white men from their land. Those who survive shelter upriver, dependent upon Glass. But, you know, there’s always one in every crowd and this time it’s suspicious John Fitzgerald who tries to wrestle control in his direction.

Leonardo DiCaprio has such a remarkable range in his filmography, but we’ve never seen him do anything like this before. In fact, we’ve hardly seen anyone do anything like this before, save Robert Redford, in the far more mellow Jeremiah Johnson. Here, as Glass, DiCaprio finds himself not dancing with wolves, a la Kevin Costner, he’s wrestling with a bear. And, I have to say, that shocking scene is terrific. You’re as mesmerized by how they shot it as you are by the terrifying event you’re witnessing. And DiCaprio isn’t just grappling with a grizzly. His understanding of nature allows him to heal his wounds, escape marauders, take shelter and survive. Because Glass is a growlingly driven man. He is insistent upon revenge. Revenge on the man who killed his son.

Even though I, again, couldn’t understand a word Tom Hardy was saying, I have to admit, I got a real kick out of how he was muttering it. And while this is far from my favorite DiCaprio performance, you’ve sure got to hand it to him for even managing to deliver an actual performance under such grueling circumstances. But here’s the thing:  Emmanuel Lubezki’s cinematography, while stunning, is bogged down by a self-consciousness that defines much of this film. Any initial comparisons to the etherically beautiful films of Terrance Malick shouldn’t last long. Because The Revenant is an ice cold, heavy handed show. It barrels in with an admirable force but never gets you in its corner.


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