However exacting director Alejandro Iñárritu may have been during production of The Revenant (according to crew members who complained and/or left the film), it worked. He has crafted a magnificent work of art, one both beautiful and brutal at the same time, and anchored by two standout performances from Leonardo DiCaprio and Tom Hardy.
DiCaprio plays one of a crew of hunters and trappers in 1823 traveling through what later became the Dakotas. Whilst a few of them flee from a pack of Indians who attack their camp, a bear attacks DiCaprio. Believing DiCaprio will die, the group’s leader leaves him behind with two volunteers, who eventually abandon him. DiCaprio survives, though, and works his way back to civilization.
There’s slightly more to it than that, of course. Hardy (duly nominated for his role) plays one of the volunteers, a deceptive and selfish man, to say the least, who does not particularly like DiCaprio, or DiCaprio’s Native American son. This leads him to perform a quite dishonorable action, which ultimately provides DiCaprio with the determination to survive his arduous trek.
If anything, the film shows how technically adept Iñárritu has become since the days of Amores Perros. Apparently shooting (mainly in Canada) with nothing but natural light, he fashions any number of stunningly photographed scenes and set pieces. Some convey the frigid temperatures so well I was shivering just watching them. The film rightly deserved its Oscar for cinematography.
DiCaprio, who has transformed into a mature actor with the skills to back up his A-list status, gives an amazing, largely physical performance here, effortlessly suggesting his character’s pain, both physical and emotional. And he proves a real trooper, submerging himself in freezing rivers and crawling into animal carcasses for the sake of his art. Yes, he earned his Oscar.
Hardy also deserves mention, not the least because he recently endured not one, but two grueling productions, the other being Mad Max: Fury Road—one shot in immense cold, one shot in intense heat. Like DiCaprio, he also has the actorly goods. As he affects a convincing Southern accent, he creates a truly and memorably despicable man, one whom definitely deserves DiCaprio’s wrath. – [DVD] [Blu-Ray]
DVD Release Date: 4/19/16