The Revenant

January 14, 2016 at 5:59 pm | Posted in 2015 | Leave a comment
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As I have confessed on this blog before, I have been (perhaps unfairly) critical of Leonardo DiCaprio as an actor over the years. After some brilliant early performances, I felt like he coasted for a long, long time. Even under Scorsese’s tutelage, I could still feel the presence of the entitled pretty boy in almost every scene of every film. However, he may now have won me over. DiCaprio gives his most honest and emotionally vulnerable performance since “The Basketball Diaries” twenty years ago, playing Hugh Glass, the 19th Century tracker who had to claw his way back to civilization after being left for dead in the South Dakota wilderness. The core elements of Glass’s story are represented honestly here, even if the story arc itself has been largely fictionalized for the sake of narrative tension. And there is no shortage of tension. Against a stunningly beautiful and unforgiving Canadian countryside, we watch Glass scrape and fight for survival against the most daunting odds. DiCaprio plays him as a haunted broken man, surviving for one reason only. This is basically an art-house revenge film; a high-brow version of “Taken,” if you will. As such, it very much plays to that genre, with all of the attendant violence and horror, made even more disturbing by how real it seems. Be warned that there are some graphic scenes of violence that were almost poetic in their intensity. But what consistently pierces through those bloody moments and, indeed, through every scene of the film, are DiCaprio’s eyes, so sad and broken and full despair. He appears to live Glass’s experiences and it’s that nakedness that makes this film such a moving and powerful experience.

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