This year, it appears that the correct movie will pick up the big prizes at the Academy Awards. The Revenant is favourite to at least win Leonardo DiCaprio his much deserved first Oscar, as well as potentially grab Best Picture and Alejandro G. Iñárritu his second consecutive Best Director gong. It is an epic story (based in part on true events) told by an incredible director and cast. We follow a group of frontiersman out trying to make a living in the American wilderness in the early nineteenth century. DiCaprio is Hugh Glass, a rather quiet, reserved but incredibly intelligent hunter, whose main concern is the safety and well-being of his son, Hawk, whose mother was a Native American. This, of course, leaves them open to attack from their fellow workmates, including the vicious John Fitzgerald (Tom Hardy). When Glass is brutally mauled by a bear, Fitzgerald agrees to stay behind to care for him, as does Hawk. Fitzgerald takes the opportunity to murder Hawk in front of the incapacitated Glass’ eyes, and then leave Glass for dead.
The rest of the story tells the tale of revenge. Glass craws and scratches his way back to life, towards the man who killed his son, but we also follow the tale of a Native American group searching for a young girl. The two tales interact at times, and it adds a nice extra layer to what could have otherwise been a rather basic story. DiCaprio is breathtakingly brilliant, as a man coming back from the edge of death. We feel every drop of blood, every drip of sweat; we feel his anguish. Single-handedly DiCaprio drags us on this most brutal recovery. There’s no quick fix to his injuries, he is always scraping for life, holding on by his fingertips. It’s such a masterful performance that it threatens to overshadow the other immense acting on show. Thankfully it doesn’t, and Hardy in particular revels in playing such a downright disgusting character, whilst Poulter brings a true innocence and emotion to the role of Jim Bridger, a young member of the crew, who gets tangled up in the events.
Iñárritu, after his Oscar success last year with Birdman, could have chosen to rest on his laurels, and make a smaller budget movie. Instead, he put himself and his crew through a ridiculously tough nine month shoot, deep in the wilderness, only using natural light. It was an ambitious, audacious move but it’s paid off hugely. The final result is a stunningly beautiful movie which emphasises the wonder yet brutality of nature. Emmanuel Lubezki should be praised for such delightful cinematography, transitioning expertly from the Malick-esque shots of nature, to the unflinching action and drama. This may very well be the most well-rounded film of the year, with every key member putting in arguably career-best performances.
It looks likely that the Revenant will win big at the Oscars. With its twelve nominations, it would be a surprise if it did not leave the ceremony with a handful of gongs. It is certainly in the race for Best Picture, and DiCaprio looks set to finally pick up the award for Best Actor. Other nigh-on certainties are Iñárritu for Best Director, and Lubezki for Cinematography, whilst Tom Hardy has an outside chance at Best Supporting Actor. Overall, February 28th should be quite the night for the whole cast and crew.