Is acting just about talking? Is Robert De Niro’s performance just a great performance because he said his lines in such a way? Or is it more about the physical aspect of his turn as Jake La Motta that makes it so memorable? Maybe it’s both, but there’s something to be said for throwing yourself into a role, much in the way DiCaprio does in The Revenant. I wouldn’t say that this is necessarily Leo’s best performance, but I think it’s the best lead male performance of the year and I think the Academy will recognize it as such; that being said, there’s even more to love here than just DiCaprio.
The Revenant tells the mostly true story of Hugh Glass, a frontiersman that gets mauled by a bear while on a fur trapping mission, left for dead, and survives. Part man vs. nature film, part revenge story, The Revenant is raw and beautiful at the same time. The small cast, including Domhnall Gleeson and Tom Hardy is spectacular, as is the landscape that Glass must traverse in order to survive and seek his revenge.
On display for the most of it are the sweeping landscapes of the American frontier and it has rarely looked as beautiful and as terrifying as it does here. Few movies capture its beauty as well (maybe The Grey or The Assassination of Jesse James By the Coward Robert Ford), but it’s never a place you want to travel to. It is raw, cold, and unforgiving. Capturing this terrain is Emmanuel Lubezki, whom is not only nominated for an eight time for cinematography, he is poised to take home his third consecutive trophy (Sorry, Roger Deakins). Lubezki’s camera stays wide throughout and it’s that angle that is able to capture the setting while staying right in the middle of the action.
A lot of attention is being paid to DiCaprio, and he’s truly great in this, but Tom Hardy is even better. As Fitzgerald, the main antagonist, Hardy is able to once again throw himself completely into a role. He’s fast becoming one of my favorite actors working today. Every time I see him, he’s like a completely different person, and I can appreciate that kind of immersion into his work.
The Revenant feels a lot like The Grey, only instead of a pack of wolves, there’s a single bear. The bear scene is pretty intense and it’s quite remarkable that someone could survive something like that. The Revenant is a truly remarkable film and I’m betting on it taking home the Best Picture trophy.