"What will it take for Leonardo DiCaprio to win an Oscar?" This is a question that we have been asking for decades and we finally have our answer. "The Revenant" is an all-around stunning film, but nothing is more stunning than DiCaprio's performance at the center of this survival story. He blurs the line between acting and actual suffering. Eating a raw bison liver? Moving in and out of frozen rivers? Leo did it all for this role. 15-20 crew members quit or were fired because they couldn't handle the extreme conditions of this film, but Leo braved the elements on-screen. The anguish and pain on his face show the actual physical and mental sacrifices that DiCaprio endured to recreate the historic suffering of Hugh Glass. Even if the Academy feels like Michael Fassbender has earned an Oscar over the years, there is no way that DiCaprio will lose this one. While we all expected a stunning performance from Leo, I don't think that anybody expected Tom Hardy to be so sinister. The story’s conflict is man vs. nature but the driving force of the film (Glass's desire to survive) is fueled by the effectiveness of Hardy's heartless performance. He has the most dialogue of any character in the film and his rustic accent continually enhances the setting. It may seem like this film is all about the acting but there is so much more. “The Revenant” also received Oscar nominations for Cinematography, Editing, Direction, Visual Effects, Production Design, Costume Design, Make-Up and the sound categories. While there are other films that are more deserving of winning categories like Visual Effects, Costume Design, and Make-Up, I’m glad that the crew’s impressive creation of the bear attack, Native American costuming, and realistic lacerations all over DiCaprio’s body are acknowledged through these nominations. I’m typically not a fan of westerns but this film breaks the mold. The story is continually moving and Emmanuel Lubezki's panoramic shots of the desolate snow-covered land and the vivid Native American attacks transport us into the American wilderness. The extended stylized shots of nature give us the feeling of a western but enhance the story instead of interrupting it. His visual depiction of the landscape is breathtaking and he has a shot at a historic three-peat for Best Cinematography. There are some other great candidates but if he doesn’t win, the voting was probably heavily influenced by his wins the past two years. My favorite scene of the entire film was in the church ruins where the score aligns with the imagery of Glass and his son to create a strong emotional moment. Even with the ever-present natural beauty of this film whose every frame was shot in completely natural light, it is as brutally violent as advertised. If you cannot handle seeing fingers get chopped off or detailed lacerations across the back, you will find yourself looking away more than looking at the screen. It would be difficult to make this film historically accurate because so much of Glass’s journey is undocumented and you should approach it knowing that there are creative liberties taken with his story (especially some added characters and the ending); however, this film is intended to pay tribute to the impossible redemption of a man whose will was greater than his circumstances and in that way, the film succeeds. “The Revenant” is not for everybody but, if you can stomach the violence, blood, and suffering, you will be rewarded with Leonardo DiCaprio’s most dedicated performance and some of the most beautiful landscape shots of this generation.
[Pictured: There comes a point where Leo barely even looks like Leo anymore]