The Revenant (5 stars)

The Revenant

Leonardo DiCaprio astonishes in Alejandro González Iñarritu’s attention-grabbing frontier drama

If there’s one thing we should all have learned about Leonardo DiCaprio by now, it’s that you underestimate him at your peril. Tom Hardy, it seems, wasn’t paying enough attention. In The Revenant DiCaprio assumes the ragged guise of a top-notch and taciturn survivalist left for dead in 1823. Alejandro González Iñarritu’s follow-up to his Oscar-winning Birdman might appear fairly fuck-you in its ferocity and challenging length but it’s a work of searing spectacle and stirring humanity.

The stubbornly youthful, former child-star plays real-life fur trapper and frontiersman Hugh Glass. This husband to a murdered wife, father to half Pawnee Indian son Hawk (Forrest Goodluck) survives the opening assault by Arikara warriors (whose arrows rip terrifyingly through his troop as they search for their chief’s kidnapped daughter) only to be ravaged by a bear and betrayed by a bastard, in Hardy’s shamelessly self-preserving John Fitzgerald.

Balancing the macro and the micro, The Revenant meticulously captures the vast, imposing wilderness and the men’s personal journeys – illuminated by Emmanuel Lubezki’s searching close-ups and the committed, intense performances, with Domhnall Gleeson and Will Poulter adding value and DiCaprio simply outstanding (this could be the film to finally nab him that Oscar). Combining the familiar tensions of the western with an added dose of man versus nature, Iñarritu’s sixth film is an audacious, immersive and highly accomplished tale of how true grit can overcome pure hell.

Its sparsely populated, cold and relentlessly punishing world is nevertheless rich with the human experience – with all that is good and ill about mankind, from barbarism and backstabbing to altruism and decency, from prejudices that disadvantage and poison and those that are overcome. And, be warned, the brilliantly-rendered bear attack may haunt you for days. To describe The Revenant as epic hardly seems enough; magnificent is more like it.

General release from Fri 15 Jan.

The Revenant

  • 5 stars
  • 2016
  • US
  • 2h 36min
  • 15
  • Directed by: Alejandro González Iñárritu
  • Cast: Tom Hardy, Leonardo DiCaprio, Will Poulter
  • UK release: 15 January 2016

Hugh Glass (DiCaprio) is a fur trapper and frontiersman who, after being attacked by a bear, is left for dead by colleage John Fitzgerald (Hardy). An audacious, immersive and highly accomplished tale of how true grit can overcome pure hell, with excellent performances, especially from DiCaprio.