But I get ahead of myself; let's start from the beginning. The Revenant is the story of Hugh Glass, (played by Leonardo Di Caprio) a legendary frontiersman who is guiding an expedition of beaver trappers in the unchartered wilderness of the American West. When the Rhee Indians attack--believing the group to have abducted the daughter of the tribe's chief--Glass leads the escape across the frozen landscape, until he is mauled by a bear and left for dead by his men. And that sets up the entirety of the remainder of the movie--Glass dragging himself over the (seemingly) whole width of the American Rockies in order to avenge his son, who was murdered by one of his men.
Other than the setting (which is incredible) it's a standard revenge plot, and that's where the problems start. When you spend this kind of money, 135 million at least, and you hire this kind of talent, Leonardo Di Caprio and Tom Hardy, and you hype the movie this heavily, (and when you have such well-publicized Oscar expectations) you expect more.
Where does The Revenant fall short? Let's start with where it does not fall short, and that's with the cinematography, which is alone worth the price of admission and a sure bet for an Oscar. Speaking of Oscars, there will be three winners more: one for the musical score, which is brilliant; one for the authentic Costume Design; and one for Best Supporting Actor. (We'll talk about Tom Hardy in a minute.)
What won't be there: Best Picture (way too long, dragging badly in the middle); Best Actor (it looked like Leonardo was trying too hard, and there wasn't much for him to work with); Best Director, (the film literally lost direction after the first half hour); and Best Screenplay (plot overly simple without any twists and turns, not nearly enough dialogue in several key spots, and multiple vague backstory references that don't work).
Tom Hardy's performance saves the movie; gritty, powerful and realistic, his John Fitzgerald is a character you won't soon forget. In many ways this is the lead role, at least the way Hardy brings it to life. Hardy's robust performance makes me want to grant 4 stars to the picture, but I can't do it: You can buff a turd, but it's still a turd and that's the way I felt about the screenplay.
Three and a half stars it is then for The Revenant, based mostly on the strength of Tom Hardy's acting and the flat out spectacular cinematography.
Peter Hogenkamp is a practicing physician and author living in Rutland, Vermont. Peter's writing credits include ABSOLUTION, the first book of The Jesuit thriller series; THE LAZARUS MANUSCRIPT, a stand-alone medical thriller; and THE INTERN, a novel loosely based on Peter's medical internship, excerpts of which can be seen on Wattpad. Peter can be found on his Author Website as well as his personal blog, PeterHogenkampWrites, where he writes about most anything. Peter is the founder and editor of Prose&Cons, the literary blog for readers and writers written by authors, editors, agents, publishers and poets; a frequent contributor and reviewer at ReadWave; the founder and moderator of groups on Facebook (The Library), Google+ (Fiction Writers Anonymous); and the chief of two tribes on Triberr, The Big Thrill and Fiction Writers. Peter tweets--against the wishes of his wife and four children--at @phogenkampvt and @theprosecons. Peter can be reached at email@example.com or through his literary agent (Liz Kracht of Kimberely Cameron & Associates) at firstname.lastname@example.org.