WARNING: MINOR SPOILERS AHEAD!
Loosely based on the experiences of legendary frontiersman Hugh Glass (Leonardo DiCaprio), The Revenant is an icy tale of revenge and survival. After being brutally mauled by a grizzly bear, Glass is left for dead by his crew of pelt hunters capitalizing on the fur trade. He makes it his personal mission to seek vengeance on John Fitzgerald (a mesmerizing Tom Hardy), the man who tried digging him an early grave. Glass, however, relentlessly crawls out of it and he fights the elements to attain retribution.
Shot purely with natural lighting, the epic drama is best consumed on the big screen—wide shots of wintery landscapes serve as a captivating backdrop for the glacial tension that climaxes into violence.
It’s no secret that DiCaprio has been dubbed as an Oscar-panderer by pop culture savants. Not to say that he isn’t a great actor, because he is, it’s just that each role that he has chosen to play over the course of his successful career has been so calculated that audiences can sometimes smell his desperation for recognition. Since he’s already won the Golden Globe and Screen Actors Guild award, things will all probably come to a titanic halt when he finally takes home the Best Actor trophy for The Revenant at this year’s Academy Awards (on February 29, Manila time).
To see if Leo is truly deserving of a win (or if he’ll be shedding a man-tear or three at the after-party), here’s a brief analysis of his competition in that category.
Michael Fassbender in Steve Jobs
Scouting report: Since Fassbender broke into the awards season scene with 2011’s Shame, he’s been churning out very magnetic performances (his role as Magneto in the X-Men flicks notwithstanding). His turn as the Apple head honcho and Silicon Valley rock star you can all thank your iPhones for was, at its best, polarizing. He humanizes the tech icon by highlighting his qualities of being both a genius and an asshole.
How does Leo fare? The Jobs and the Glass characters both show strength of human persistence; the former against board members and colleagues, the latter against the wild and, well, colleagues. Visually, Leo's latest opus leaves a heavier imprint. His bloody scrimmage with an angry bear is a cathartic gut-buster that will render you queasy and uncomfortable.
Eddie Redmayne in The Danish Girl
Scouting report: Although the young Brit already won in this category last year for his role as Stephen Hawking in The Theory of Everything, critics have pegged him as the best bet to upset Mr. DiCaprio’s predicted victory. As transgender-pioneer Lili Elbe, he tucks his ding-dong between his legs in this heartbreaking tale of gender identity.
How does Leo fare? Redmayne and Leo both get naked in their respective films...but only one film features a horse doing double duty as a "tent."
Bryan Cranston in Trumbo
Scouting report: Walter White…err…Bryan Cranston’s quick-paced wit and inherent knack for comedy are in full display as communist screenwriter Dalton Trumbo who had to endure public scrutiny for his political opinions. Electric as a rebel and downright fun to watch, Cranston proves that his hit TV series Breaking Bad was not just career peak, but the promise of more compelling work to come.
How does Leo fare? Cranston acted out munching on amphetamines while hammering out Oscar-winning scripts. DiCaprio ate REAL BISON LIVER. Oh, the things you do for an Oscar.
Matt Damon in The Martian
Scouting report: Lighthearted in its treatment of interplanetary isolation, sci-fi god Ridley Scott’s castaway crowd-pleaser made moviegoers the world over want to save Matt Damon from impending doom…yet again!
How does Leo fare? With barely any dialogue to convey the grating anguish Hugh Glass must endure to triumph over the wilderness that’s hell-bent on burying him deep into the snow, Leo had to rely on sheer physicality. He tells the story through bitter moans, spit, and snot. His face painted with the agony of a man on a mission to kill. In The Revenant, DiCaprio literally fights for his life to be named best actor of the year. Damon basically did a vacation film. Sure, it was on an alien dessert-like planet—but he didn't have to eat REAL BISON LIVER and sleep inside an animal carcass, did he?
THE FINAL VERDICT: Just give Leo the damn statue already!