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The Revenant

Nominated for Best Picture at the 88th annual Academy Awards

Nominated for Best Director ( Alejandro G. Inarritu) at the 88th Annual Academy Awards

Nominated for Best Actor (Leonardo DiCaprio) at the 88th Annual Academy Awards

Nominated for Best Supporting Actor (Tom Hardy) at the 88th Annual Academy Awards

Nominated for Best Cinematography (Emmanuel Lubezki) at the 88th Annual Academy Awards

Nominated for Best Editing (Stephen Mirrione) at the 88th Annual Academy Awards

Nominated for Best Production Design (Jack Fisk, Hamish Purdy) at the 88th Annual Academy Awards

Nominated for Best Costume Design (Jacqueline West) at the 88th Annual Academy Awards

Nominated for Best Makeup and Hairstyling (Sian Grigg, Duncan Jarman, Robert A. Pandini) at the 88th Annual Academy Awards

Nominated for Best Sound Mixing (Jon Taylor, Frank A. Montano, Randy Thom, Chris Duesterdiek) at the 88th Annual Academy Awards

Nominated for Best Sound Editing (Martin Hernandez, Lon Bender) at the 88th Annual Academy Awards

Nominated for Best Visual Effects (Richard McBride, Matt Shumway, Jason Smith, Cameron Waldbauer) at the 88th Annual Academy Awards

There’s already been a lot of superlatives lobbed at Leonardo DiCaprio’s fine performance in Alejandro Inarritu’s muscular “The Revenant”…and they’ve mostly seemed to be in the positive vein. I’ve heard fans spout words like “great” and “brilliant” on a semi-regular basis. Honestly, I’m not certain if it’s either one of those, although it is a pretty impressive acting showcase. But if we were picking my favorite amongst the five Best Actor Oscar nominees, I’d choose Michael Fassbender’s brilliant subtle performance in “Steve Jobs” (full review of that coming very soon). Oh, don’t worry Leo groupies–I’m almost 100% certain, at this juncture, that DiCaprio is going to get the Oscar for the first time, whether he deserves it, or not. Because one thing the Academy loves to shine on is brutally, physical performances. And if there’s one thing Leonardo’s character proves undoubtedly in “The Revenant”, it’s that he takes a damn good beating. Getting mauled by a bear, swept away in the rapids, and riding over a cliff is the kind of movie magic that is enacted by computer imaging and stunt people. But its also the kind of  stuff that wins movie stars awards. Ask Adrien Brody, or Denzel Washington, or Russell Crowe–they all took severe poundings on their way to securing Oscar gold. Methinks it’ll work for Leo too. So, acting nom #5 will prove to be the charm. And with 12 total nominations, we could end up seeing a Best Picture win for “The Revenant” too. And this coming just a year after Inarritu’s “Birdman” victory. Some guys have all the luck.

It’s Hugh Glass (a very good, and almost primal, Leonardo DiCaprio) against the elements, as well as eventually by the selfish and sadistic, John Fitzgerald (a smashing villain played wonderfully by Tom Hardy). It’s 1823, and a small group of military men, along with some hunters and trappers, are the only wilderness survivors after an attack by a Native American tribe. They are lead by Captain Andrew Henry (a confident and commanding, Domhnall Gleeson), but it is hunter and guide Hugh Glass that majorly aids in helping the men to survive the ambush, by boat escape. After landing miles down river, and trying to make their way back to their stronghold through thick forest, Glass temporarily gets separated from the party, and stumbles upon a mother grizzly and her cubs. After a vicious  attack by the enraged, protective bear, Glass is left clinging to life, and unable to speak. When the rest of the group finds him, including his teenage son, Hawk (a strong Forrest Goodluck) from a now deceased Native American mother, Glass is given some basic medical care, and carried along by the men as they fight the winter elements. It is thought by most that Glass will not survive, and that he should be shot to relieve his misery, and so as not to slow them down and endanger all the rest. Hawk, of course, balks at this plan. Soon it is determined that some volunteers stay behind with the severely injured Glass, while the others move ahead. Hawk, and two others are selected–one of them the malevolent-natured John Fitzgerald. And before long, all four left behind men are struggling to make it back to camp, when Fitzgerald makes some self-preserving and vicious choices.

“The Revenant” is a pretty impressive achievement. Yeah, at times Inarritu wanders into Malick and Herzog territory regarding his wilderness scenes. Maybe ‘wanders’ is the wrong word…more accurately he stomps. I sensed a little “Gladiator” influence in there too. Alright, a lot. But it works, it actually works. “The Revenant” is an engrossing and entertaining movie. It’s not very original, but I prefer it to Inarritu’s “Birdman”. I bet it’ll age better too, as “Birdman” seemed so instantly disposable. And the bear attack scene, for all the silly jokes made about it, is astounding. It’s horrifying and heart-stopping, and oh so brutal. Don’t get me wrong, Leo is quite strong in this. And he spends about half of it without uttering a word. Compare it to his quite verbose role, in the film that brought him his previous Best Actor nomination, in Martin Scorcese’s “The Wolf of Wall Street”, and you come to realize what a versatile talent DiCaprio is. So, it’s not like I’ll be all that peeved when Leo grabs the gold. He’s paid his dues, and much less deserving candidates have claimed the statue. Plus, I’m so pleased that Tom Hardy is being recognized for something this year, after starring in three disparate motion pictures in 2015. He’s a tremendous talent, and his Best Supporting Actor nomination marks the first time the Academy has shined on him. Win or lose…he’ll be back. And what a period Alejandro Inarritu is enjoying. Often considered the short straw, among the “Big Three” Mexican directors, that first made their mark in the 1990’s (namely, Alfonso Cuaron and Guillermo del Toro), he’s now poised to surpass the other two. So, that reported tortured shoot of “The Revenant”, may currently seem to be totally worth it.

Grade:  A-

next review up:  “Steve Jobs”


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