Leonardo DiCaprio and Tom Hardy live up to the awards season buzz in The Revenant

By Alynda Wheat
December 24, 2015 04:05 PM

The ugly truth is that getting mauled by a bear won’t be the worst thing to happen to 1800s frontiersman Hugh Glass (Leonardo DiCaprio).

It won’t even be the most egregious event of the day, after which he’ll also be left for dead by the fur trappers he’s led into the wilderness. That, at least, may be just as well, though: One of them (Tom Hardy) seems all too happy to nudge him into the grave.

The Revenant is not for the weak of will (or stomach), but it’s as beautiful as it is bracing. Oscar-winning director Alejandro Gonzélez Iãàrittu (Birdman) delivers scenes of brute violence buttressed by stunning cinematography in this Old West thriller.

True cinemaphiles will delight in the footage that emerges from Iãàrittu’s nine months of shooting in the hinterlands of Canada and Argentina – all with natural light.

The performances are equally sublime. DiCaprio uses sheer will to knit Glass’s battered bones together on a quest for vengeance. Hardy plays what’s left of a man after hard living strips away his honor and decency. The omnipresent Domhnall Gleeson and Will Poulter (The Maze Runner) have supporting roles as soldiers and fellow members of the trapper crew who have to come to terms with their own culpability in what happens to Glass.

But The Revenant boils down to two men, and DiCaprio and Hardy deserve plenty of awards-season attention for their complementary turns.

Hardy is never anything less than fascinating, whatever he does, and here he’s treachery personified.

DiCaprio, on the other hand, is the very model of suffering, his eyes having to do the acting his body cannot, as he literally crawls part of the way toward civilization (such as it is).

Together, they deliver a filmgoing experience that isn’t watched but survived.

The Revenant hits theaters Christmas Day.

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