Here's an equation that you don't have to be a mathematician to solve: What do you get when you take an Oscar-winning director with two Oscar-caliber leads, and then add a copious amount of snow, facial hair and a bear? Simply put, you get movie magic.
Alejandro G. Iñárritu's latest, "The Revenant," is a beautifully brutal revenge flick that demands to be seen on the big screen thanks to its visual flair and fantastic performances from the cast, which is anchored by a committed Leonardo DiCaprio and unrecognizable Tom Hardy.
The plot is based on the legend of Hugh Glass (DiCaprio), a fur trapper who is savagely mauled by an angry mama grizzly during an expedition in 1800's Missouri. Glass survives the attack, which leads to fellow trapper John Fitzgerald (Hardy) to suggest that they put him out of his misery and keep moving. Captain Henry (Domnhall Gleeson) and Glass' son Hawk (Forrest Goodluck) deny Fitzgerald's motion, which eventually leads to the frustrated frontiersman to try and kill Glass himself.
After murdering Hawk for interrupting his attempt to finish off Glass, Fitzgerald buries Glass alive, leaves him for dead, and rejoins the rest of the hunting crew. Glass, like the title suggests, digs himself out of his early grave and begins to crawl after Fitzgerald to exact his revenge.
The long, grueling journey that the cast and crew endured to complete the film sounds about as fun as, well, being attacked by a bear. However, the fruits of their labor, no matter how tough they may be to swallow, are still sweet.
Cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki, fresh off of winning back-to-back Oscars for "Gravity" and "Birdman," once again brings his A-game along with his trademark long takes, super close close-ups and ethereal imagery. His distinctive style allows the audience to truly gain a sense of Glass' situation by
putting you in his shoes for every aspect of his journey. Not that anyone would want to experience what Glass went through, but it just serves as a testament to how effectively transcendent and innovative Lubeski is behind the camera.
As for the acting, let it be known that DiCaprio has completed a task that very few actors have been able to accomplish since the advent of talkies. He was able to carry a two hour movie while barely saying a word, and allowing his body language and raw emotion do the talking for him. This dedication is what makes DiCaprio one of the greatest and one of the most under-appreciated actors in the game today.
This is a dude that can get almost any role he wants; He's attractive, he lives a glamorous lifestyle and is endlessly talented. Yet, time and time again, he takes on characters that rely on him to shed his Hollywood-tailored skin and put himself through all kinds of physical, emotional and possibly mental turmoil, all in the name of art. Quite frankly, the fact he's still seeking his first Academy Award win is beyond ludicrous.
Personally, I believe he should have been won the Oscar for either "The Departed" or his heel turn in "Django Unchained," which was magnanimously snubbed of a nomination in 2013. If crawling through miles of snow and eating bison liver isn't enough to prove his abilities to the Academy, then maybe receiving one of their little gold statues is more baloney than an honor.
The true reward should come from creating a work of art for all to enjoy, and "The Revenant" isn't just a work of art. It just might be a masterpiece.