Starring: Leonardo DiCaprio, Tom Hardy, Domhnall Gleeson, Will Poulter, Forrest Goodluck
Directed by: Alejandro González Iñárritu
Tuesday evening and two and a half gruelling hours of pain, cold and suffering lie ahead. Throw in Leonardo DiCaprio, Tom Hardy and a CGI bear and what more could a girl want...?
Hugh Glass (DiCaprio) is the unluckiest man on the planet. His wife is murdered; his trapping party is attacked by Indians and he's mauled by a bear. Left for dead, he claws his way back to life only to fall down a waterfall and off a cliff. But that's not all. He sears his wounds shut with gunpowder. He eats raw fish and grass. He sleeps inside a dead horse to ward off hypothermia (who knew horses had so many innards?!). Every time his body starts to mend, he breaks something else. If it weren't all so awful it would actually be quite funny. (And truth be told, when he falls off the cliff, it kinda is. It wasn't just me who laughed. Honest.)
But Glass has zero sense of humour and fails to see the funny side. For he is on a quest for revenge, and for that he must survive. As if he has somehow acquired the fierce, fearless spirit of the bear, he drags his way, panting, growling, towards his target, the black-hearted Fitzgerald (a lumbering, mumbling Tom Hardy, half mesmerising, half repulsive, all stinky looking clothes and horrible straggly wig).
If you really can win an Oscar for filming in inhospitable conditions (or for awesome nostril acting), Leo has it in the bag.
Yes, this is a very blokey film, an advanced masterclass in ultra survival, but it's not, as I feared it might be, a futile, self-destructive exercise in machismo like Ridley Scott's The Duellists. Glass's quest has nothing to do with male pride and everything to do with unbearable loss – although in its way it is equally futile. Vengeance can't bring back the dead, and Glass knows it.
To say I enjoyed The Revenant would be mis-selling it. Like any Oscar-tipped film worth its salt, it's quite a punishing ordeal for the audience, as well as the cast. But the film is so utterly gripping and involving and evokes such strong emotions – from tear-jerking sadness to shock and visceral excitement to sheer disgust – that the lengthy run time flew by, leaving me quite wrung out at the end.
Powerful, compelling and gutsy (and only occasionally a bit Jim Jarmusch-y weird) The Revenant is a must-see on the big screen, for the breathtaking scenery if nothing else. Or for Leo, Tom Hardy and the best CGI bear ever...