Alejandro González Iñárritu’s last film was the Academy Award winning Birdman. While that film received rave reviews from most critics and award circles, I thought that it was pretty overrated and far from the best film of 2014. Iñárritu’s latest film is The Revenant, a visceral revenge film that highlights the brutality of nature. It’s definitely a step up from Birdman and features an incredible performance from Leonardo DiCaprio who is operating at the height of his acting ability. Its script has a few problems that hold it back from being truly incredible, but this is definitely a cinematic experience that needs to be seen on the big screen.

DiCaprio stars as Hugh Glass, a 19th century hunter and fur trader. Led by Captain Andrew Henry (Domhnall Gleeson), their expedition is interrupted by a brutal attack from a Native American tribe. The group is forced to divert from their normal course and escape into the woods. While walking through the forest one morning, Glass is savagely attacked by a bear and left on the brink of death. When his injuries threaten to slow down the expedition, several men decide to stay behind with Glass, including his own son (Forrest Goodluck) and the angry John Fitzgerald (Tom Hardy). Realizing that staying behind with Glass will cause them to be discovered by the Native American tribe, Fitzgerald leaves Glass for dead after murdering his son. But Glass isn’t just going to roll over and die and he embarks on a mission of vengeance across the dangerous frontier.

Most of the conversation surrounding The Revenant has focused on DiCaprio’s performance and for good reason; the guy practically bears his soul on the screen, effortlessly playing a skilled frontiersman struggling for his life. But it’s the connection that DiCaprio is able to establish with his son and the audience that really makes the performance memorable, especially since his character isn’t very well fleshed out on the page. The screenplay from Iñárritu and Mark L. Smith is actually quite simple, but the film’s use of obvious symbolism and strange imagery make it feel like its reach exceeds its grasp. The film would have actually benefited from Iñárritu cutting out more of the abstract and instead focusing on the simple story of revenge. But even with a few stumbles along the way, The Revenant is epic and undeniably great. Not only is it a great modern western, but it’s also another solid entry into DiCaprio’s impressive filmography.

The Revenant receives 3.5/4

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