Leonardo Di Caprio finally won his best actor Oscar, all he had to do was keep warm by sleeping within the disembowelled remains of a horse, bet they don’t teach that at drama school.
Legendary Frontiersman Hugh Glass (Di Caprio) is on a fur trade hunting expedition in the American wilderness circa 1820. The party including Glasse’s pawnee son (Forrest Goodluck) are attacked by “Ree” Indians, understandably unhappy trappers are stealing their livelihood.
The group are decimated but escape under the resourceful eye of their Commander Andrew Henry (Domhnall Gleeson) and fellow trapper John Fitzgerald (Tom Hardy). Further down river Glass is spectacularly attacked by a bear and eventually left for dead.
The film then basically becomes a quest for survival and vengeance, served extremely cold and very hard.
Glasse’s character and consequently actor DiCaprio are put through the ringer, almost every scene is raw and visceral. DiCaprio grunts though most early dialogue, mostly through pain or sheer emotion. It is difficult to believe there would a five star hotel just off camera, so existing relatively rough would have been the order of the day.
It is obvious this was a tough shoot for both crew and actors. On occasion there will be minimal acting required, if you are actually cold wet, tired and miserable, there is not much emoting required.
Certainly the audience is right there with the characters, the escape from Ree Indian attack brings the immediacy of danger and life/death decisions to the forefront.
All central characters are well played, you would expect nothing less from Di Caprio, Hardy and Gleeson but Will Poulter as Jim Bridger especially excels in a lesser but very important role, as does Goodluck.
This is an almost all male film, the only females are imperilled or seen in flashback, this is no feel good story and the ending is as brutal as you might expect.
Oscar winning director Alejandro G Inarritu and cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki use their locations masterfully, making the most of every waterfall, mountain and tree laden with snow, coupled with a rousing soundtrack augmented by nature itself.
Not exactly an easy watch, at times as gruelling as the challenges faced by Glass. This is superb exciting film-making, well outside the norm.
Challenging in your face cinema that barely lets up, despite the long running time. Not for everyone due to the content but brave cinema that demands to be watched.