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The Revenant (2015) – Film Review

The Revenant (2015) - Theatrical Release Poster

Theatrical Release Poster

Alejandro G. Iñárritu wasted no time after sweeping the 2015 Academy Awards with his 2014 film Birdman, a film I greatly enjoyed, and here we are in 2016 with his latest film titled The Revenant. The film was officially released in December 2015 so it could qualify for the 2016 award season, a limited release to be precise, but its wide release followed shortly in January 2016.

The Revenant is a historical epic, more or less, and it is about the frontiersman and fur trapper known as Hugh Glass. The actual history of Glass isn’t quite simple to explain since he has become the stuff of legends. According to history, or the widely known urban legends depending on whom you talk to, Glass was left for dead by his fur trapping crew, nearly mauled to death by a Grizzly Bear and crawled hundreds of miles in order to survive and to exact his revenge on the ones that have wronged him. These happenings are present in the film and in the novel of which the film is based on, written by Michael Punke, that also shares the same title.

Knowing Iñárritu’s previous work, especially Birdman, I knew prior going into The Revenant that it was going to be a visual feast for the eyes and it very much was. Visually the film was epic, cold and quite visceral due to the numerous closeup shots. Some shots seemed to go on for some lengths, similar to how Birdman was shot in one seemingly continuous take, and I appreciated these filming techniques.

But we all know why this film has been getting some serious buzz even prior to its release. According to the film’s crew and its lead stars, Leonardo DiCaprio and Tom Hardy (more on these two later), The Revenant was an extremely grueling film to make. I won’t go into the details since you can read them elsewhere but the pain these individuals underwent showed through in the end, but in a positive way.

In the end, The Revenant is a very masculine film about survival, revenge and the cruel things humans continue (and will always continue) to do to one another.

The elephant in the room of course is Leonardo DiCaprio. The notoriously Oscar-nominated-but-always-snubbed actor who has been putting in serious work since he came onto the Hollywood scene.

There are very strong rumors that he will be winning the Oscar for Best Actor at the 2016 Academy Awards and I believe he will. The competition is pretty stiff this year in his category and due to DiCaprio’s huge popularity and continual Oscar nominations and snubs, I believe the Academy will finally give in and award him that elusive golden statue.

But does he ACTUALLY deserve it for his role as Hugh Glass in The Revenant?

I do not believe so.

I am a fan of DiCaprio, not nearly as much as the general public but I am a fan of his. In watching The Revenant you can tell he struggled, both in the making of the film and in the actual film itself. It showed through especially in his eyes, face and the physical appearance of his body which looked gaunt and sickly. DiCaprio has also said on record that this was his hardest movie to make and he really emphasized the difficulty. But regardless of these facts I don’t believe he deserves the win for this film.

It’s not that his acting was poor or seriously sub par, I just feel that he truly didn’t disappear into the character of Hugh Glass. He didn’t have many lines in the film and when he did speak his accent wasn’t the best. Mostly his acting came through in the grueling struggle of of his character’s survival through the harsh cold weather and the (almost always) deadly encounters and occurrences he stumbled into.

These things all sound very deserving of an award but I simply did not feel it was DiCaprio at his absolute best.

But Tom Hardy, on the other hand, I thought he was incredible and hands down the best actor in the film. He truly disappeared into the character of John Fitzgerald, the main antagonist of the film, and he was excellent. His English accent slipped in a few times here and there in his portrayal of Fitzgerald but not enough to be detrimental. Excellent work by Tom Hardy and very deserving of his Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actor.

Will Tom Hardy win? Probably not.

Will Leonardo DiCaprio win? I strongly believe so.

And shouts out to Will Poulter as Jim Bridger. He did very well in this film too.

Overall The Revenant is a highly recommended watch. It is a pretty long film, very violent and very masculine. Many will call it Oscar-bait, which it is, cause already I’ve heard complaints by those that deem the film a snooze fest. But I was entertained the whole way through even with its slower moments.

And contrary to popular belief, Leonardo Dicaprio did not get raped by a grizzly bear in this film. But if you decide to watch The Revenant, you can understand how the rumor came to be.

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