“Leonardo DiCaprio didn’t even act. He just made weird noises the whole time.” These wise words from my father, even though they pretty accurately summarize the movie The Revenant, are not ones that I support. After seeing this movie, not one, but two times — which means approximately six hours of me being a loser and/or becoming a The Revenant professional, depending on your outlook — I have decided that this year is the year that the long-running “No Oscar for Leonardo” joke dies. Finally.
The Revenant tells the story of a guy — Leo — who’s just trying to live his life as a mentally tormented but super chill trapper when all of a sudden he has the WORST DAY EVER. Not to spoil the insane gore fest, but Indians attack the heck out of Leo and his trapper buddies, driving them out of their camp and forcing them to start hiking through the crazy old-timey wilderness to get back home. We’re introduced to Leo’s scandalous half-Pawnee Indian son as well a super-racist and generally awful trapper who does not like Leo one bit. Despite the predictable tension between Leo’s non-white son and the colonial-times redneck, things are going pretty well for the trappers (minus the threat of horrible bloody death by Indian). That all changes a day or so into the trek, when Leo experiences an EVEN WORSE WORST DAY EVER. Again just trying to live his life, Leo goes out into the woods and gets very suddenly and very grossly mauled by a bear. Things honestly go downhill from there. Mostly when his friends leave him to die. The rest of the movie tells the story of Leo fighting his way back from the brink of death (fun fact — a revenant is a human who has returned from the dead) because honestly, he is pretty miffed at the way his friends treated him.
This movie is disgusting. But that’s part of what makes it so fantastic; not only is an engagingly violent story, but it’s also a beautifully told one. One notable thing about the film is that it contrasts things like gorgeous nature shots with shots of Leo getting shredded to pieces by a bear. The director very artfully portrays the fact that nature is amazing, sure, but it’s also scary. In a similar vein, The Revenant also takes away the romanticized ideals of colonial times and exploration. It’s easy for us to be learn that the exploration of America was a fun time where the Indians were peaceful and majestic and the French were all cool and friendly and ate croissants while befriending the Indians and that the English were the bad guys who swooped in and ruined everything. This movie strips that away. It’s a thriller, but it’s also an observation of the fact that people, like nature, could be just as brutal as they could be spectacular. Being one race or another didn’t dictate goodness, as demonstrated multiple times throughout the movie. I was blown away by the story of this movie, but also by the artistry of it and the fact that it de-romanticized the ideas that I relied on about exploration and the relationships between various people within early America. The Revenant reduces the division of race to an observation of humanity in general, strengthened by the theme that nature is more powerful and significant than any single human or conflict.
Plus, I really liked Leo’s acting. I’ve always thought that he was a good actor, but this role was especially important for him. It’s true, being attacked by a bear might mean you don’t get as much of a speaking role as you wanted, but I also think it’s true that it’s way harder to accurately portray pain than people give him credit for. Leo’s acting was, in my opinion, phenomenal, and I’m definitely Team Leo for the Oscars this year. The other actors — especially Tom Hardy in the role of horrible racist man — kept up with him easily, making the entire cast one of the best I’ve seen.
This movie is rated R! It’s very violent and pretty disturbing at times, so if that’s not your thing, don’t watch it. But The Revenant turned out to be one of my favorite movies of all time for the well-executed and well-written plotline, the amazing cinematography and powerful themes, and, of course, Leo’s Oscar-worthy acting. This year, the joke DIES.