While DiCaprio's frontiersman guide Hugh Glass is keen on exacting revenge on talkative choleric trapper John Fitzgerald (Tom Hardy, who appeared with DiCaprio in Inception) for killing his half-breed Native American son, the film is more about Glass surviving a bear's mauling and making it across frozen land to a fort.
I had held off on watching the film on the Internet when it was it leaked before Christmas, and I'm glad I did, because watching the majesty and expanse of rugged frontier land in a cinema, accompanied by stirring music by Carsten Nicolai and Ryuichi Sakamoto, adds to the film's emotional impact.
Viewers will feel Glass's turmoil, despair and grit as he fights the inclement weather and Native Americans to achieve his goal.
Glass is close to his son, Hawk (Forrest Goodluck), who accompanies him on this particular trip that leads to his death. Inarritu makes sure viewers know this as he has Glass pouting the words "You are my son" to Hawk.
However, as Glass's obstacles become more challenging and more improbable, viewers become more critical of them.
|DiCaprio is feeling bearish about his Oscar chances.|
Inarritu also gets Glass to dream of his murdered Native American wife in a style similar to that experienced by Maximus (Russell Crowe) in Gladiator.
Inarritu wants to show that man will go to hell and back to achieve his goal, even if he has to beg someone to let him eat remnants of a bison killed by wolves. The cold adds to Glass's harrowing journey across a few thousand miles, but the movie drags on longer than it should have.
DiCaprio deserves the accolades he's getting for breaking his Glass ceiling. His character doesn't talk as much as the antagonist (Fitz), and the former's temperament is as cold as the ice around him when the latter taunts him about him and his half-breed son not getting killed in an attack.
You've got to raise a glass to DiCaprio for putting his body on the line and going to great lengths to get under his character's skin. Even when Glass can't talk, for example, just after the rousing bear attack on him, his eyes shine with anger when Fitz traps him into agreeing to a Dr Jack Kevorkian method.
Fitz is a cold-blooded killer whose main motivation in life is money. He's a blabbermouth who's not afraid of hurting people's feelings, therefore, his conflict with Glass drives the film.
They're as different as apples and oranges. In fact, I looked forward to watching more of Fitz than Glass.
3½ out of 5 stars
|Bloodied but hopeful.|