The Revenant, also known as ‘the movie Leonardo DiCaprio should win an Oscar for’ hit theatres on the weekend. Playing alongside blockbuster mega-hit The Force Awakens and Quentin Tarantino’s The Hateful Eight, the film has had steady, but relatively slow, earnings. But does it matter if it wins a bunch of Oscars?
That is the question. Is it finally Leo’s time? As a fan of his Oscar nominated performances in The Wolf of Wall Street, Blood Diamond, and The Aviator, I want DiCaprio to finally have his shiny gold statue, but not for this movie.
The film centres on 19th century frontiersman Hugh Glass who is left for dead in the wilderness after being attacked by a grizzly bear. While he’s lying there incapacitated his arch enemy, John Fitzgerald (Tom Hardy), murders his half-Pawnee son, Hawk (Forrest Goodluck). He then buries Glass alive and leaves the frontiersman to die. The rest of the film follows Glass’ miraculous and difficult survival and his quest to avenge his son’s death.
Let’s start with the good stuff. Everyone has been talking about all the nasty prep-work DiCaprio did to get ready for this movie.
“Whether it’s going in and out of frozen rivers, or sleeping in animal carcasses, or what I ate on set,” DiCaprio said. “[I was] enduring freezing cold and possible hypothermia constantly.”
There is a scene where he eats raw bison liver and it’s all real.
“When you see the movie, you’ll see my reaction to it, because [director] Alejandro [Gonzalez Iñarritu] kept it in. It says it all. It was an instinctive reaction.”
In the scene where DiCaprio is attacked by a grizzly bear you forget that it’s CGI. Glass’ intense will to survive is perfectly translated by DiCaprio’s performance and you’re in the moment with him. It’s an intimate scene where you can hear bones cracking and see his shallow breath in the cold air. DiCaprio flawlessly portrayed the will to survive, the grit, and the determination of his character.
There’s just one thing that I wasn’t buying, and that’s his fatherly love for his son Hawk. There was a complete lack of chemistry between the actors. I did not get the sense of any kind of intimacy or deep love from either actor. Yes, it was the 19th century so fathers and sons probably weren’t super affectionate, but the look in DiCaprio’s eyes when with his son pales in comparison to the performance he puts on in the rest of the film. He has more chemistry in his dream sequences with his late wife, who is played by Grace Dove – originally from the Canim Lake Indian Band in northern B.C. (Read her interview with TheFeminismProject.com here.)
Time-wise, the lack of father-son chemistry is small, but in the bigger picture it affected how I perceived Glass and his mission to survive and avenge Hawk’s death. It’s all anger-driven and I was expecting some devastation and deep mourning.
I won’t be mad if DiCaprio wins – the 41-year-old has been nominated four times since 1994 and arguably deserves the award – but this isn’t a slam dunk.
The CGI bear, on the other hand, is a shoo-in.
Image credit: Tumblr/phoenix-of-gotham