The Revenant – review by Gemma Clark

With the release of his new movie, The Revenant, will this finally be the year Leonard DiCaprio bags his elusive Oscar?

Set in majestic, tundra like conditions, it is amazing to think that anything survives – but DiCaprio delivers a performance that may well out live him himself and carry him, truly, into the halls of Hollywood legends.

Following the story of fur trader Hugh Glass, DiCaprio portrays one man’s quest across a frozen dessert, grappling with the very edge of life and death. Early on we see that scene, where he is mauled by a bear and left on the periphery of survival. From then on this tale shocks and engrosses, delivering sweeping, wide angle scenes of frozen scapes, with long, continuous takes, giving the film a very visceral feeling.

This film is certainly one of grandeur and majesty as much as revenge and retribution, but don’t go in expecting Bear Grylls levels of survival techniques. Expect so much more. Our home grow ‘survival expert’ would quail at the levels Glass goes to in order to survive the bone-breaking, blood freezing cold. The landscapes seem almost to be a character in and of itself, challenging Glass at every turn, daring him to continue on his journey, blocking him at every turn. Everything about his campaign speaks of harshness and desperation, one man determined to whatever it takes to survive some of the most brutal conditions on earth. This includes eating raw Bison liver and crawling inside the still warm carcass of a dead horse.

Glass is plunged into freezing water, buried alive, mauled by a bear, shot, stabbed and subjected to the most unforgiving weather this world could throw at him, and yet survives. Everything feels so real that you find yourself flinching at his pain, feel the ice in your veins. If anything can convince you that humans have the survival instinct, it is this film. By comparison, Quentin Tarantino’s wild west bloodbath seems like a rom-com.

Shot over eight months in Canada and Argentina, DiCaprio seems to embody the landscape, with a raw, almost carnal performance. Facing previous Oscar winner, Eddie Redmayne for his performance as the first transgender woman, Lily Elbe, it seems only right that DiCaprio should walk away victorious, having suffered so completely for his craft.


Supported by a stellar cast, Tom Hardy (also nominated for an Oscar for his supporting role) excels as greedy, selfish, cowardly fur trader nemesis, John Fitzgerald, the partially scalped rouge from whom DiCaprio seeks revenge.

But perhaps a mini star of the show was young Will Poulter, a British boy who got his start in 2008 as part of an all child cast comedy show. He stands up well against his Hollywood heavyweight co-stars and marks himself as one to watch for the future.

Nominated for 12 Oscars, including Best Picture, Best Actor and Best supporting Actor, The Revenant is set to win big at the awards ceremony in February.