If you’re being rational, then you can agree that I am just as good an actor as Leonardo DiCaprio. Not only because we’re both renowned for our boyish good looks, and certainly not only because we both always shout “I’m the king of the world!” whenever we get on a boat with Kate Winslet, but mostly because we have the same number of Oscar wins (approximately zero, to be exact).
I know, it’s tough to believe. It’s almost like you’re being Inception’ed or Shutter Island’ed or something like that, but give your totem a spin, because I promise you that you aren’t dreaming.
So, then what about Leo as Howard Hughes in “The Aviator?” Frank Wheeler in the 2008 adaptation of Richard Yates’ “Revolutionary Road?” The unreliable narrator Teddy Daniels? The somehow-likable racist Calvin Candie? How about Danny freakin’ Archer, bru!?
No, no, no, no and no. Instead, those statues, both respectively and respectfully, went to Sean Penn (the dude who played Spicoli) for “Mystic River,” Daniel Day-Lewis for “There Will Be Blood,” Jeff Bridges (the dude who played The Dude) for “Crazy Heart,” a 2012 one that I don’t quite get and, of course, the late great Phillip Seymour Hoffman for “Capote.”
But, staying in the same vein of being rational and all, I’m convinced that 2016 is the year that something’s gonna give.
Not only will yours truly be starring as mild-mannered corporate slacker Lock in the low-budget short film “Lock” when it makes its debut at the Maryland Film Festival this spring (Oscar nomination still pending/possibly lost in the mail), but I’m also convinced that Leo may finally have one of those little golden dudes for his mantle after seeing the movie “The Revenant” this past week.
Now, I know what you’re thinking: “‘Lock’ sounds great and incredibly well-acted, Tripp. I can’t wait to go see it.” But try to stay focused, because I’m doing a whole Revenant-type-thing here.
Editors Darin McCann and Tricia Titus will be happy to know that there’s some hunting action during the opening scene, making this review very much of a sports movie and totally belonging in a column in the sports section, but “The Revenant” goes beyond typical traditional sports movies, like “Hoosiers” or “American Pie: The Naked Mile,” and ventures into some more complex themes than just Bobby Knight or hormones.
The film’s heartbeat revolves around the relationship between father and son, and its beginning battle scenes are reminiscent of one of those old Clint Eastwood cowboys-and-Indians-type joints, which, somewhat fittingly, I used to watch all the time with my dad, who, somewhat devastatingly, still does not read “Tripple Overtime.”
But, as good as old Westerns like “The Outlaw Josey Wales” and “Hang ’Em High” were, and still are for that matter, they were products of the era during which they were filmed. Forty years and zero DiCaprio Oscars later, new technology, like RED cameras, CGI and Megan Fox running in slow motion in a low-cut tanktop, has changed the game.
Director Alejandro G. Iñárritu (“Birdman,” “Babel”), takes full advantage of this, and along with his artful eye, not only puts you right into the action, but very successfully makes you your own character — you’re ducking arrows, you’re reloading your gun, you’re being pretty racist when it comes to the Indians but no one is really calling you on it because it's the 19th century. You can almost feel the breath and blood, smoking and splattering on the camera lens, yet somehow, still, the camera isn’t there.
The characters are just as dynamic as the storytelling, making you feel oddly responsible for them all — including Tom Hardy, who flawlessly goes from British accents to playing a fur trapper with a more convincing Sussex County accent than Point graphic artist David Elliot at a Laurel High School reunion.
I’d liken the B-story to some kind of ancient-Indian version of ‘Taken” (or “Taken 2,” “Taken 3,” or “Taken 4,” when they inevitably do one), but instead of the incomparable Liam Neeson avenging his daughter being, you know, like… taken, and threatening to find and kill Albanian sex traffickers in that totally-badass Irish accent of his, it’s an old Pawnee-Indian-type-dude doing more or less the same thing to a bunch of French-beaver-trapper-outlaw-type guys in a still totally-badass-type way.
I won’t give away what happens, or the Pawnee Neeson’s “very particular set of skills,” but in all sincerity, both storylines do more than entertain even before they intersect.
Iñárritu sees the American fur trade of the early 1800s as the likely birthplace of corporate greed in the U.S.
You see, apparently, back in those days, a bunch of British dudes, who were possibly related to Tom Hardy, decided that they all wanted these fancy-type hats made from beaver pelts, to wear when they got all dressed up for, like, tea and crumpets or trying to invent the British version of “The Office” or whatever.
So everyone over here started going crazy trying to collect beaver pelts because of supply and demand and all that, but apparently it was pretty dangerous and led to a lot of bear attacks and Liam Neeson-type situations, and a lot of Native Americans got killed and got their land and/or daughters taken etc., etc., and it just kept going until most of the beavers were wiped out and probably most of the Indians were, too, or I guess at least until Winston Churchill or someone decided that fancy hats weren’t really that cool anymore.
While the movie doesn’t dive too deep into that redheaded stepchild of American history, it does show the overall disregard toward Native Americans in an eye-opening and unavoidable light, while at the same time delving into the whole misguided concept of revenge and almost awakening another sense as you watch Leo crawl through the snow and mud on his way toward a sure-fire Oscar.
The survival in every shot keeps you on the edge of your seat, even though you’ve really gotta pee after drinking a $9 soda, and shows just how much the human spirit can endure when actually challenged to do so.
I could easily go on and on about all the stories outside the story, but I’d instead urge you to go check out for yourself what I promise is far more a piece of art than it is just any old movie.
In the case of “The Revenant,” or the real-life events of Hugh Glass, for that matter, I’ll admit that beaver trapping and bear hunting probably wasn’t as much of a sport as it was survival, but the poetic vision of Iñárritu, spot-on David Elliot accent of Hardy, reliable narration of DiCaprio, and overall non-weird French movie feel of the film despite long dialogue-less bouts, make it possible for the audience to interpret some deep-rooted cathartic themes and inspire a new way of thinking.
That is why I’m giving “The Revenant” 3,465 out of 3,468 possible points.