There’s a lot of like about The Revenant, a harsh tale of survival circa 1823 where frontiersman Hugh Glass (Leonardo DiCaprio) struggles against impossible odds – well, an Indian attack followed by being mauled by a bear and then fellow survivor John Fitzgerald (Tom Hardy) leaves him to die, only he doesn’t, which is bad news for John. Sadly, pretty much all its virtues are on the surface, as Birdman director Alejandro González Iñárritu again proves his skills do not lie in making his flashy visuals (thanks largely to cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki) mean anything more than, well, flashy visuals.
So while the countryside is stunning to look at and the action sequences are astonishingly gruelling (that initial Indian attack is a Saving Private Ryan-level classic), the story itself turns out to mean little more than “life sure was hard on the frontier” wrapped around a tale of revenge so generic it could have come from the first Death Wish movie. At least both DiCaprio and Hardy give stand-out performances, DiCaprio because he gets seriously put through the wringer and makes us feel it, while Hardy’s mumbling self-centred coward is the only really developed character here. The Revenant is a film to be looked at rather than thought about. Make sure to see it on the biggest screen you can find.
Reviewed by Anthony Morris