The Revenant premiered on Dec. 25, starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Tom Hardy, and follows an incapacitated mountain man’s journey for survival to avenge his son’s death at the hands of an egocentric comrade during the early 1800s.
The film took some time to reach this point, however. Almost an hour, actually. Director Alejandro Iñárritu, whose artful Birdman won the Oscar for Best Picture last year, lured audiences into Montana and South Dakota’s open wilderness. The northern states’ landscapes of snow-capped mountains ringed by vast creaking forests and cascading rivers were as beautiful and serene as they were cold and cruel.
DiCaprio, whose real-life-inspired character’s name (Hugh Glass) barely stuck, slushed and clawed through icy water and dirty snow. Nature was unforgiving in The Revenant. You could see how freezing he was, almost feel that bone-numbing chill (then again, Long Island is pretty effing cold right now, too).
Oh, and he’s mauled by a mama grizzly bear. And ambushed by Native Americans. And slept naked inside a dead horse. Stylistic camerawork shot right-up-in-your face action sequences, detailing every bone-snapping crunch, arrow pierced through someone’s neck or eye, or volumes of saliva foaming across DiCaprio’s lips. The gritty fights were very up-close and personal.
Sadly, for all the film’s breathtaking backdrops and thrilling action, those are The Revenant’s biggest strengths. What bound everything together was a compelling and dramatic but simple revenge story with a predictable and underwhelming outcome.
DiCaprio and Tom Hardy both delivered believable performances, though Hardy once again mumbled his way through some scenes with yet another inaudible character (The Dark Knight Rises’ Bane, Mad Max, etc.). Overall, there wasn’t anything impressive or memorable about their characters’ personalities when compared to the actors’ previous roles, such as DiCaprio’s scumbag Jordan Belfort in The Wolf of Wall Street. Neither performance in The Revenant was bad; they just weren’t their best roles.
Perhaps the standard set by DeCaprio and Hardy’s résumés destined their latest characters and The Revenant overall to fall short of amazing, but jaw-dropping scenery and savage action carry this revenge story well enough to make the film a praiseworthy start to 2016 cinema, and encourage moviegoers to venture out into January’s merciless chill. At the very least, viewers will be more appreciative of our current weather conditions come the end credits.