The Revenant

Directed By: Alejandro G. Iñárritu

Starring: Leonardo DiCaprio, Tom Hardy, Domhnall Gleeson, and Will Poulter

"As long as you can still grab a breath, you fight.  You breathe.  Keep breathing.  When there is a storm.  And you stand in front of a tree.  If you look at its branches, you swear it will fall.  But if you watch the trunk, you will see its stability."
-Hugh Glass's Wife (Grace Dove)

The reigning Oscar champ is back!  I may not have been rooting for Birdman throughout last year's awards season, but I never denied that it was a beautiful, high quality production full of outstanding performances.  As we arrive at the beginning of the end of yet another awards season with the Golden Globes taking place this weekend, Oscar-winning director Alejandro G. Iñárritu somehow seems to be treading similar territory as fellow auteur Quentin Tarantino in a bold and refreshing way.  Offering bloody revenge in the snowy mountains of the American frontier, The Revenant is undoubtedly driving in the same lane as fellow Oscar hopeful The Hateful Eight.  Like Tarantino's epic western, The Revenant is a yet another reminder that its director is a master of his craft who has yet again delivered an unforgettable cinematic experience.

Captain Andrew Henry (Domhnall Gleeson) is leading an expedition deep into Louisiana to hunt for pelts.  Henry hires tracker Hugh Glass (Leonardo DiCaprio) to accompany his crew and lead them through the dangerous wilderness in the Deep South.  The expedition goes well until it doesn't.  Native Americans inhabiting the lands view these white men coming into their world as a serious act of theft.  Soon, the natives blanket the forest with arrows and wage fiery warfare on Captain Henry and his crew of 48 men.  Out with his son Hawk (Forrest Goodluck) hunting, Glass makes his way back to their camp and helps Henry and their remaining crew escape on a boat.  The pelts they've acquired and the money they would make from them are now in serious jeopardy.

Henry and the survivors make their way up the river, but the natives track their movements on land.  Glass recommends that they get off the boat and chart a course back north via land.  Slippery huntsman John Fitzgerald (Tom Hardy) would prefer to stay on the boat to protect the pelts and his money.  Henry opts to follow Glass's recommendation and find a route on land.  Back in the woods, Glass decides to go hunting but encounters a bear.  This grizzly claws into Glass and rips the flesh off his bones in a rather brutal death match.  Somehow, Glass survives this bloody affair.  When Henry and his crew find him, they patch him up and try to take him across the tough terrain of Louisiana for medical aid.  However, the winter conditions make this impossible.  Fitzgerald, the most self-interested member of the group, would rather just end the poor man's suffering.  Instead, Henry enlists Glass in the care of his son Hawk, another young hunter named Bridger (Will Poulter), and surprisingly Fitzgerald for a sum of $300.  With all this in mind, betrayal looms, and soon an incapacitated Fitzgerald will want nothing more than revenge.

Epic, gorgeous, and riveting in every way, The Revenant is undoubtedly a tree with strong roots.  Thanks to Iñárritu, this revenge flick is brought to life in stunning vibrancy, and nature is the auteur's weapon of choice.  You can see it in the gritty grey cinematography complemented by his sweeping panoramic shots of the forest.  You can hear it in the pulsating score that roars away as wintry weather plagues our hero again and again.  You can feel it in the calm sounds of the woods just before the thunderous sound of battle.  Yes, the beautifully grim The Revenant is an incredibly thrilling cinematic experience with Iñárritu at the height of his powers.  Arguably better than Birdman, this revenge flick's excellence is rooted in Iñárritu's strong direction.

Iñárritu has a trio of overlooked actors helping him to bring The Revenant to life.  There's no one more overlooked amongst this group than Leonardo DiCaprio.  Having firmly established his place in the annals of cinematic history with an ever-growing filmography of outstanding works, Leo may just be the Al Pacino of his generation when it comes to awards.  People often forget that it took Pacino seven times up at bat over the course of two decades to bring home some Oscar gold.  The Wolf of Wall Street star seems to be suffering a similar fate.  If his performance in The Revenant is any indication, however, he hasn't given up the good fight.  In what is probably his most physical performance to date, DiCaprio takes us on one painful emotional rollercoaster.  Plagued by his injuries from the near-fatal encounter with a ferocious grizzly bear, DiCaprio's Glass spends a majority of the film with limited physical and communicative abilities. Despite this, DiCaprio digs deep to deliver a flood of emotions in many of the film's most powerful scenes.  With every breath he takes, every grunt he makes, and every look he gives, DiCaprio conveys so much to audiences with an undeniable potency.  Time and time again throughout The Revenant, DiCaprio deftly adds depth to his character Hugh Glass in yet another impressive turn on the big screen.

It's safe to say that Tom Hardy and Domhnall Gleeson have been fairly overlooked as well. For his part as John Fitzgerald, Tom Hardy once again demonstrates that he has a certain talent for portraying antagonists.  Reunited with his Inception co-star, Hardy offers audiences a loathsome character oozing with menace.  As Hardy inhabits this memorable villain, it's fascinating to explore this character's core moral and religious principles.  It's safe to say the man who believes God is a squirrel has very shaky ones at best, and Hardy puts that on display time and time again throughout The Revenant.  We also have Domhnall Gleeson, who is capping off an incredible year with this epic revenge flick.  Having starred in Ex Machina, Brooklyn, and a little film called Star Wars: The Force Awakens, he brings 2015 to a close with a noble turn as Captain Andrew Henry.  He imbues the character with an unshakable morality and a love for Glass.  Moreover, Gleeson does not quite give us the silver spoon I expected as the film opened.  This marks another strong performance in a very strong year for Harry Potter alum.

It doesn't slip by me that The Revenant is yet another adaptation to hit the big screen this awards season.  Based on Michael Punke's The Revenant: A Novel of Revenge, this outstanding piece of cinema will no doubt be an enduring work that stands the test of time.  Deftly crafted from start to finish, The Revenant gets a sober rating.  Ladies and gentlemen, this is what awards season is all about.  Don't miss this one because revenge has never tasted better.