AM At The Movies: ‘The Revenant’

Above: Leonardo DiCaprio stars in Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu's 'The Revenant'
Above: Leonardo DiCaprio stars in Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu's 'The Revenant'

The Revenant
Starring: Leonardo DiCaprio, Tom Hardy, Domhnall Gleason, Will Poulter
Directed By: Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu
Run Time: 156 minutes

The Revenant is visually arresting and beautifully filmed, using a variety of shots to demonstrate the expansiveness of the frontier being portrayed and the physical toll of trying to survive in such a harsh, barren environment. Depicted in layers and startling detail, the wilderness becomes one of the central characters in this terrific picture from Birdman director and Oscar winner Alejandro G. Inarritu.

Based on the true story of frontiersman Hugh Glass, The Revenant revolves around DiCaprio’s visceral and fierce performance, one that has garnered him plenty of Oscar buzz. It’s his most physical and grimiest role to date and he delivers in every way.

You can’t take your eyes off him, even when there are long periods where he’s not actually doing all that much; his eyes and facial expressions say more than words can and the guttural cries and howls he lets out make the hairs on the back of your neck stand up. DiCaprio has been consistently excellent throughout his career, but this might be his strongest performance yet.

The supporting cast does strong work here as well.

Hardy is loathsome as the film’s antagonist, Fitzgerald, a bigoted, harsh, disloyal trapper, while the youngster Poulter more than holds his own even though many of his scenes are in tandem with Hardy. And Gleason, who is having a breakout run with key roles in Ex Machina, Brooklyn, Star Wars: The Force Awakens and this, shines yet again.

This is one of those movies that is going to hold up exceptionally well over time and likely garner even more praise in the future as several other films try to replicate it’s sweeping grandeur and stirring performances, but come up short.

There have been criticisms about how grim some of the elements of this film are and that it focuses on “traditional masculinity,” but I don’t see it. The film is grim because existing in that time and place was grim and the early 1800s weren’t exactly a time where delving into man’s motivations and deep-seeded emotions was common.

Personally, I like that it’s harsh and doesn’t stray too far from the cut-and-dry reality these characters saw for themselves during these harsh times. As archaic as this may sound, men were men and they didn’t delve into the emotions behind their actions – they acted and went forward with life, as Hardy’s character does. Yes, Poulter’s character is conflicted, but you know why, same with Gleason; what more were people looking for?

The Revenant is going to garner a ton of attention when the Oscar nominations come out later this week – Leo will get a nod and Hardy probably will too; Inarritu will be up for Best Director and it will likely get tipped in cinematography as well because it is such a visually stunning and startling film.

How many it wins will fall to the voters, who have to decide how much they liked DiCaprio’s desperate performance in relation to others on down the line.

Regardless of how many gold statues it collects, it’s worth seeing, especially in theatre, where the grandeur of the wildness really stands out.

E. Spencer Kyte

E. Spencer Kyte

E. Spencer Kyte is a freelance journalist based in Abbotsford, British Columbia, where he lives with his wife and dog. In addition to his work here, he writes about sports for Complex Canada and covers the UFC for various outlets. His mom also still tells him what to do on a regular basis, even though he’s nearly 40. He tweets from @spencerkyte.

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