If Alejandro Gonzalez Innaritu’s Oscar-winning Birdman was all about the stifling interiors of a New York theatre, The Revenant** is his bid to show he can also handle the great outdoors.
This is about epic landscapes, snow and ice and cold and basic human impulses, compared to the over-pampered vanities of the Birdman actors. Set in the 1820s, the film follows Leonardo DiCaprio who plays a fur trapper Hugh Glass, left for dead by colleagues after being mauled by a grizzly bear.
As the film’s title suggests, Leo comes back to haunt them and Inarritu’s camera tracks the man’s journey across snowy plains and valleys and through forests and rivers. It’s a survival picture, a Bear Grylls handbook on how to use flints and moss to cauterise your wounds, how to swim rapids and falls, how to eat squirrels, raw fish and bison liver. It’s very paleo and right on dietary trend and even shows you how to shelter from the cold in the carcass of a dead horse.
Frankly, it gets ridiculous. Handsomely photographed and shot though it is, I wanted Leo to stay inside that horse and clip-clop his way through the rest of the movie. Maybe Tom Hardy could have got in with him and done the back end.
For all the praise heading the film’s way, and for all the good work done by actors such as Will Poulter and Domhnall Gleeson, it becomes a ludicrous macho revenge western with simplistic eco-credentials, complete with El Topo-style hallucinations of churches and bells and acres of beard.
Does Leo deserve Best Actor? Probably yes, but not for this performance as such, which is all crawling and hairy and scrabbling about in the snow – all of which ‘bravery’ is made far easier when you’ve a massive trailer full of supermodels, brandy and cigars awaiting you after every shot.
There is much to admire but, unfortunately, far too much to endure.