The Oscar race hasn’t really changed now that The Revenant’s been seen. It has confirmed its place, especially if you were thinking of it as a nominee for Best Picture, but perhaps not the winner. For a film to win Best Picture usually means you can sit anyone down in front of it – cashier, stripper, teacher, princess, president, security guard, nanny – and they will get it if not love it. That’s because thousands of people vote to call it the best. How can you get thousands of people to agree your movie is good? What Alejandro G. Inarritu is going for with The Revenant is to make a piece of art more than a general crowdpleaser. And while the review embargo has not yet been lifted, there are a few things that can be discussed.
You can check all of the boxes for nominations — especially in the tech categories. The cinematography is beyond anything I’ve ever seen because I don’t know if any crew has attempted anything like this, ever. You might have to go back to the 1970s, when filmmakers were still kind of, sort of allowed to experiment on this scale. The score is also breathtaking. The art direction (Jack Fisk) is subtle because nature is really the art director here but it is nonetheless authentic, very McCabe & Mrs. Miller looking. Tom Hardy is as strong as expected for a supporting nomination. The sound design of the film is probably going to be one of the hardest contenders for Star Wars to beat. But really, more than anything, The Revenant is two things – a love letter to the natural world that we have all but destroyed in our thirst for more “things” and the bravest, hardest thing Leonardo DiCaprio has ever done.
The Revenant’s shoot was famously trying, since they used all natural light, filmed remote wilderness terrain in and among the harsh elements so that you will have never seen anything like it. That meant, as an actor, DiCaprio interacted immersively with both the real and raw aspects of nature and whatever torments Inarritu was putting him through that day. DiCaprio has turned in the kind of performance actors win awards for because he did something no one else has ever done and probably never will do in their lifetime – – not to this extent – with a demanding director whose work here is uncompromising. That made DiCaprio’s work likewise uncompromising.
I can’t write a review though I’m dying to. I can only speak vaguely about general impressions and Oscar prospects. In terms of the Best Actor race, it still feels down to where it started with Johnny Depp and Leonardo DiCaprio in competition for the win, with Michael Fassbender and Sir Ian McKellen very much “in the conversation” to win. Probably whether DiCaprio wins or not will depend on how the movie is regarded overall. Then again, he is so overdue now that it might just be an easy thing for voters to do, whether they like the movie or not.
We live in a time of snap judgments, of people like me coming out of screenings and proclaiming the Oscar prospects minutes later. Is that good or bad? Maybe a little of both. Either way, I can’t wait to write a proper review for the Revenant – and to tell you the truth, I’m not all that interested in the insta-tweets about it either. I do agree with Jeff Wells, though, who said he’s never seen a movie like The Revenant. Hats off to all involved for even attempting it.