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This American frontier-set drama will undoubtedly split the room – but you simply can’t deny the quality of this Oscar Best Film front-runner.

Despite 12 Academy Award nominations – including Best Actor for Leonardo DiCaprio and Best Supporting Actor for Tom Hardy – it won’t be everyone’s cup-of-tea as last year’s Best Director winner (who has been nominated again here) Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu (Birdman) provides a spectacle to be revered.

The action-laden trailer is undoubtedly deceptive, as what you’ll find here is a slow-burning tale of vengeance – with all the spectacular production design ‘bells and whistles’.

Stellar performances, nurturing direction, breathtaking landscapes, sensational cinematography, sharp editing, clever scripting, superbly choreographed (sometimes quite violent) set-pieces, and one of the most brutally visceral animal attack scenes ever seen on film – this is a adventure-drama that doesn’t leave anything on the table.

Even all the actors involved said it was the ‘hardest shoot’ they’d ever done, and that’s coming from Tom Hardy – a man who has just done George Miller’s Mad Max: Fury Road.

Based on true events, DiCaprio stars as legendary explorer Hugh Glass, who – along with his Native American son Hawk (Forrest Goodluck) – is heading an expedition across the unchartered American frontier in the 1820s for a team of fur-trappers, led by Domhnall Gleeson’s Captain Andrew Henry.

After the team have to flee an attack from a tribe, their situation is further complicated when their tracker Glass, is mauled within an inch of his life by a grizzly bear. Two members of the team’s crew – Will Poulter’s rookie Bridger and Hardy’s world-weary veteran Fitzgerald – are left behind with Hawk, to make sure Glass’ seemingly impending death is handled in a dignified fashion, as the rest make their way up the mountain to reach base.

But when the distressed and near-motionless Glass is double-crossed by Fitzgerald – with deadly life-changing repercussions – he sets out on an emotionally and physically-draining path of vengeance to track down his nemesis by using all of his knowledge of the wilderness to survive, complete with a broken leg, crippling injuries and body-altering lacerations.

With Fitzgerald on his radar, Glass has to avoid potentially deadly altercations and navigate the vicious winter-heavy terrain to try and make it back to civilisation – and ultimately find redemption.

Unfortunately this slow and methodical tale – after a quite explosive start – might be hard work for some casual cinema-goers through its two and three-quarter hours run-time, but the efforts of everyone involved are never in doubt.

It may become a bit too self indulgent for some tastes, but setting DiCaprio and Hardy loose in Inarritu’s beautifully-realised playground will more than likely lead this to Oscar glory – and also snag Leo that gong he has prized for so long.

Gavin Miller [youtube id=”LoebZZ8K5N0″ width=”600″ height=”350″]

Cast: Leonardo Dicaprio, Tom Hardy, Domhnall Gleeson, Will Poulter, Forrest Goodluck & Lukas Haas

Running Time: 2 Hrs 46 Mins

Director: Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu

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