The rules are simple. The good get spared. The bad get spoiled.
The Revenant (20th Century Fox)
Directed by Alejandro G. Iñárritu
The Revenant is a revenge fantasy. Beautifully photographed and superbly directed, it is gorgeous. The movie is raw and violent and untamed like the early midwest. Leonardo DiCaprio is fantastic but he isn’t the stand-out performance in the movie because Tom Hardy is amazing as the focus of Leo’s revenge. This is the bloody and savage wilderness. And it is brutally savage. This is the beginnings of the slaughter of Native Americans and the raping of the land. But it is as lovely as it is grizzly. And believe me, it is grizzly. I kid you not. The Revenant is fucking awesome.
First things first. Alejandro Iñárritu is an incredible artist. I have searched far and wide for the next Stanley Kubrick and I think I’ve found him. Like Kubrick his movies are astonishing and beautifully animated epic photographs. His actors give performances that are head and shoulders above everything else they’ve done in their careers. And his stories are complex and intricate tales of the deeper and darker sides of the human experience. He’s just insanely good at his job.
Leonardo DiCaprio is sensational. He may finally win that Oscar after all. And like Matt Damon in The Martian, he finds himself alone in a harsh environment and must summon the will to survive against incredible odds. But unlike Damon, he doesn’t spend the time alone talking to himself. Actually Leo has very few lines in the movie (Like Charlize Theron in Fury Road, or Tom Hardy in the same movie) but DiCaprio makes you feel his pain. Every last bit of it. And there’s a lot to go around.
However for me, Tom Hardy’s is the truly astonishing performance. This is the best I’ve ever seen him. And looking at his credits, he’s consistently good in everything. He is not just the villain of this piece. He is all the negative emotions. He is fear. He is impatience. He is ego. And he is greed. He is amazing in the film. You can hate him sometimes and you can feel sorry for him but you can still fucking hate him. There are two fantastic performances in The Revenant. And while I can possibly live without DiCaprio getting an Oscar, Tom Hardy is the best I’ve seen. He really deserves one.
Trigger warning. The movie treats women badly. It’s a testosterone fest. The French and European and early American adventurers didn’t bring their wives with them. They instead raped (or sometimes fell in love with) the Native American women they stole from the tribes that they sacked and pillaged along the way. The Revenant is a cruel movie, racist and sexist and awful. Everyone is awful. But so is the land and the weather and the animals. Everyone talks about that bear scene. It’s as bad as they say. But who ever said it was a rape scene is mistaken. The bear is female for one. She’s just protecting her cubs. Again, the movie is very cruel to everything and everyone. No animals excluded.
And while I’m not a big fan of revenge movies, I do love a good survival flick. So to me, The Revenant is less about revenge and more about survival. (survival in order to get some revenge). And there’s some pretty cool survival fantasy shit in this movie. While Matt Damon had his science to help him, Leonardo’s guy has just his will to survive. And he’s a little superhuman at times. And it’s at those times where they lose me. So that’s why I think The Martian is a better movie. But as a fantasy survival revenge western, The Revenant is a gorgeous throwback to the good old days. This is the best gritty western movie since Eastwood’s Unforgiven.
The Revenant is a beautiful movie. Brutally unforgiving and emotionally draining. And even though I want The Martian to win best picture this year, I kind of think The Revenant will beat it by a whisker. The whiskers of a very large and pissed off grizzly bear.