The Revenant is an immersive revenge drama with a committed performance by Leonardo DiCaprio but it doesn’t have a compelling story to match its grand visuals and poetic score.

In an expedition of the uncharted American wilderness, legendary explorer Hugh Glass (Leonardo DiCaprio) is brutally attacked by a bear and left for dead by members of his own hunting team. In a quest to survive, Glass endures unimaginable grief as well as the betrayal of his confidant John Fitzgerald (Tom Hardy). Guided by sheer will and the love of his family, Glass must navigate a vicious winter in a relentless pursuit to live and find redemption. [20th Century Fox]

It’s Oscar season, so you know what that means. After failing to win an Academy Award for a variety of heavy roles, DiCaprio goes all out in The Revenant.

In fairness to DiCaprio, he gives a committed performance and embraces the challenges of his role. He’s convincing as an explorer who has to survive grave wounds and an inhospitable environment after being left for dead in the wilderness. He’s surrounded by a great cast, notably Domhnall Gleeson, Will Poulter and Tom Hardy.

The cast and crew had to survive a difficult shoot because it was shot in location. The decision to do away with CGI prove to be for the best. Cinematography offers breathtaking vistas and places you in the middle of everything. Film direction delivers a drama with the scale of an outback epic and a touch of Malik’s lyricism. It’s a masterclass in filmmaking that Alejandro G. Iñárritu and Emmanuel Luzbeki uses throughout the movie complemented by the editing, sound design, and production design.

In one long immersive action sequence, a Steadicam shot follows Glass in the middle of a fight between American trappers and Indians. There’s a real sense of urgency and awareness of being surrounded by shooting men and flying arrows. In another scene, an overhead shot of towering trees, echoes of nature, and a musical score turns his journey into a palpable experience.

Unfortunately, the movie’s high production value can’t mask a simplistic story. The movie does away with Cowboys versus Indians trope and hints at a social landscape that is as harsh as the American wilderness, but the plot is more focused on Glass’ survival. It can be said that this is about him after all, but he’s given an underwritten story of revenge with an unsatisfying emotional pay-off that’s rushed in the end.

Overall, The Revenant is a well made movie with an underbaked story. You’ll need patience to sit through DiCaprio wheezing, grunting, and limping his way through the wilderness for more than an hour to enjoy the imagery. The movie spends more time putting him through hell and its easy to see it as a ploy for Oscar gold. There’s plenty of talent in display here and the movie is a momentous effort. However, its scant script does not match the grandeur of its visuals.

My Rating: 7/10

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DiCaprio went through a grueling shoot, but his performance here is not Oscar worthy. IMO, he doesn’t do anything here that can’t be done by any other talented actor.

Edit: Fortunately for him though, the top performances of the year are dominated by women, so he may have a chance to finally win one.