DiCaprio shines in latest film, but not much else does
Leonardo DiCaprio has suffered a lot in the search for an Oscar, but not quite as much as his character, Hugh Glass, does in “Revenant.”
The film, which is essentially a modern revenge western, centers around trapper Hugh Glass as he proves to be quite a bit tougher than his namesake material. He suffers through all the horrors man and nature can throw against him in his quest to take revenge for his murdered son. It is a simple premise, and throughout the film the story does not go much deeper than that. It is a very superficial movie – the characters progress very little, if at all, over the course of it, and there are no twists or turns that anyone who has ever seen a movie will not see coming. There are no hidden dimensions or deeper meanings to be found.
However, following in the footsteps of critical darling “Mad Max: Fury Road”earlier in 2015, “Revenant”proves that a film does not need any of that to be masterful. Though the script is rather light, and the majority of the movie consists of DiCaprio and others getting beaten, bruised, cut, scraped, crushed and stabbed, “Revenant”makes up for its shortcomings in an Oscar-worthy performance from DiCaprio and the masterful work of director Alejandro González Iñárritu.
Although this is a film with no bad performances, the truth is that none of the other actors compare when placed next to DiCaprio. As Glass gets put through more suffering than any human being can reasonably be expected to survive, including being shot by arrows, mauled by a bear, shot and starved, it is DiCaprio’s charisma, grit and projection of iron determination that keeps the events feeling grounded and real.
The determination that Glass’ character possesses may strike a chord with DiCaprio. Even though DiCaprio’s fans’tendency to decry the acclaimed actor’s lack of Oscars holds little merit when his career is juxtaposed with other actors who have never won the prestigious award (including the incomparable Joaquin Phoenix), it is possible that DiCaprio feels as though this film is his chance to grasp that which has so long eluded him. Certainly, he feels more driven and gritty than ever before. This movie would not even be half as good as it is were it not for him taking the pain, the doubt, the fear and the anger that Glass feels and turning it into a surprisingly subtle depiction of a simple man.
The other half of the equation for this movie is on the other side of the camera. Iñárritu pulled out all the stops, with grand, sweeping vistas accompanying intense action, beautifully composed moments of contemplation and a seemingly never-ending thirst for DiCaprio’s blood, making this movie a showcase of his cinematic talent.
This is by no means a perfect movie – many segments are intensely boring, and it is about a half hour too long for the very simplistic plot. None of the actors or characters are particularly inspiring outside of DiCaprio and Glass. The nonstop suffering of the protagonist becomes quite tired and stale by the halfway point, and the lack of meat to the script could leave less patient audiences with little to invest themselves in. However, the movie excels where it counts, delivering memorable action, masterful performances, beautiful scenes and a deep emotional connection between Glass and the audience.
Final score: 80/100