Leonardo DiCaprio I think we can safely say has been trying to win an Oscar for ever. He has worked with Martin Scorsese, Christopher Nolan and other big names in the film business and the award winning business. However despite solid roles in films like Shutter Island, The Wolf of Wall Street and Revolutionary Road, the sword wielding Oscar statue still alludes his reach. With this new film The Revenant directed by Alejandro González Iñárritu, the man behind last years big Oscar Winner Birdman will DiCaprio finally grasp a tiny, shiny gold man.
The Revenant is a film based on a novel by Michael Punke, which in turn is based on the story of real life American Frontiersman Hugh Glass (played by DiCaprio). The plot deals with Glass and his quest for revenge on John Fitzgerald (Tom Hardy) who killed his half Native American son and tried to kill him after Glass was mauled ferociously by a grizzly bear.
This film is quite obviously a Western; it is concerned with similar themes
of violence, civilisation, the wilderness and nihilistic depictions of man. In that vein The Revenant dissects its characters, both metaphorically and literally. Glass’ soul and internal organs are laid bare during his ordeal. He becomes the Revenant of the title, an avenging spirit, merging with the landscape to become something not quite human, not quite animal, something not quite alive and something not quite dead.
The film is exhausting, you feel every second of it in a visceral way. Every moment DiCaprio shuffles, crawls and grunts his way through vast and bleak American vistas, the audience shuffles uncomfortably in their seats as they are shown the ugliness and dirt in the souls of men.
Furthermore the film is, what is the best word to use, dirty, grimy and above all gross; you can see every drop of blood, every hair, every speck of dirt and all of it combines to create a very textured experience. The film is
shot in a very similar style to Birdman with a lot of close ups and shaky, swing pans which adds to this very tactile and realist film, almost documentary-esque.
However there is also an air of mysticism to the film. As already said Glass becomes a legend, a ghost, and a were-bear through his quest, but we also see other characters and the country meld and change. The Western Frontier with its rivers, mountains and forests takes on a mythic quality as it stretches on forever, is obscured by rain and snow and almost, just almost speaks to us. This is emphasised by the exquisite scenic shots and use of minimal score.
It is a fantastically made film, a fantastically acted film, but it is a mission to get through; I went with friends and I swear we were close to leaving the screening to be sick. I need to emphasise though that I am glad that I saw the film, it is an experience, but like the experience of Hugh Glass himself I am sure that I need a break and that I don’t want to go through it again, for a while.