A harrowing ordeal for Leonardo DiCaprio… and the audience
The Revenant is hard to watch. It will make you wince. It will make you recoil. It will make your stomach churn. But, it won’t make you smile.
There’s not an ounce of humour in DiCaprio’s latest Oscar bid. And that’s the point. The story is brutally immersive, sharing every emotion and sensation with the audience. DiCaprio embodies the role of Hugh Glass, a nineteenth-century fur trapper, who finds himself left for dead by his comrades after a savage bear attack.
When Glass comes across a mother bear and her cubs in the wilderness, she attacks him. The mauling is shocking and painfully realistic. We see every tear of flesh, hear each crack of bone and feel every cry of pain. In a feat of CGI wonder, we believe that the bear is real, defending her cubs from potential danger. When it seems like she is done and Glass is near death, she comes back for more in a toe-curling exchange. It is hard to believe that anyone could survive such an ordeal, but the tale is based on a true story (Michael’s Punke’s The Revenant: A Novel of Revenge).
DiCaprio’s companions vow to nurse his broken body, carrying him on a stretcher through the treacherous plains of the Rocky Mountains. All the while, Native Americans are hot on their tail to drive them from their land. But, when the task becomes impossible, the group’s Captain (Domhnall Gleeson) offers a reward for those willing to stay behind. A reluctant Tom Hardy stays alongside Will Poulter and Glass’ native son, played by newcomer Forrest Goodluck. But, it is only a matter of time before Hardy incites a mutiny, which leads to a quest for bloody retribution.
The Revenant is packed full of hellacious performances from the stellar cast. DiCaprio gives it his all, personifying every ounce of pain his character feels. With barely any dialogue, his physical performance is exceptional. This movie seems like a last-ditch effort to snatch the Oscar that’s been evading him for years. For pure commitment to a role, if nothing else, he wholeheartedly deserves it. Hardy, on the other hand, is no stranger to playing the villain, as his scene-stealing performance as Bane proved. His character is deplorable and selfish, with a menacing Southern drawl that often makes his words difficult to hear. The climatic duel between the pair is gritty and heart-stopping, albeit rather predictable. Poulter also shines, proving his worth as an up-and-coming British actor.
There are unforgettable moments in the film too, but mostly for the wrong reasons. The violence is hard to bear, from the very opening sequence that sees horses being shot at point blank range and men skewered with arrows. The worst moment by far is when DiCaprio takes a tumble off a cliff whilst on horseback. Of course he lives to tell the tale, but the horse is dismembered. As if that wasn’t enough, Glass proceeds to mutilate the headless carcass, strip naked and use it as shelter for the night. There are some things that can never be unseen.
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