Leonardo DiCaprio is about to ride a Hollywood-sized wave of affection and sentimentality to his first ever Academy Award for best actor for his role in the grisly revenge drama The Revenant.
Unfortunately, that would be a poor decision.
Not because he’s a bad actor, but because his performance on this occasion is far from Oscar-winning.
If and when he does win, the decision will have been driven largely by the industry’s view that he is a great performer who should have won his Oscar for best actor by now.
Since this year’s best actor category contains only moderately-strong competition, Leo may be able to slip through the cracks, but The Revenant should not be the film we remember as the best of his distinguished career.
He has given far better performances
From making us sob during his turn as a child with a mental disability in What’s Eating Gilbert Grape, to his flawless South African accent in 2007’s Blood Diamond, and his irresistible boyish charm in Catch Me if You Can, DiCaprio has proved himself a deft chameleon over the decades.
Of his three nominations (The Aviator, What’s Eating Gilbert Grape, The Wolf of Wall Street), 2005’s The Aviator seemed DiCaprio’s best chance.
A fascinating biography directed by Martin Scorsese and co-starring a radiant Cate Blanchett, The Aviator oozed Oscar glory and showed DiCaprio at his handsome leading-man best.
The Wolf of Wall Street was another example of DiCaprio at the peak of his powers, as the suave, messed up hero he plays so well.
He barely has any lines
It’s no secret DiCaprio gets mauled by a bear in The Revenant.
Without spoiling the film, the bear attack basically stops DiCaprio from speaking during two-thirds of the movie. What we’re left with is a heavy-breathing, grunting DiCaprio trying to fight his way through the tough terrain.
The lack of lines could be forgiven if DiCaprio’s character was groundbreaking in other ways, like French actor Jean Dujardin in the Oscar-winning 2011 silent film The Artist, but sadly DiCaprio’s character has barely any subtlety: he is a man out for revenge, and that’s all we need to know.
While there’s no doubt he gives a great grunt, DiCaprio has plenty of time to win his first Oscar gong with a film he actually speaks in.
Tough conditions do not an Oscar make
The Revenant‘s filming conditions have been compared to Francis Ford Coppola’s infamous Apocalypse Now – a film set so dramatic and soul-destroying it almost bankrupted a studio and killed its cast.
Similarly, tales of The Revenant‘s harsh conditions have bordered on the mythical, and have been used to back DiCaprio’s Oscar campaign.
In interviews, DiCaprio has constantly mentioned the freezing conditions, the hours of make-up, getting the flu multiple times and his insistence on actually performing stunts himself, such as eating raw liver and hopping inside that dead horse.
Sure, the conditions in Alberta, Canada were likely pretty grim, but they shouldn’t win him an Oscar.
It’s all about politics and sentimentality
When DiCaprio (probably) wins, it will be because the academy feels it’s finally ‘his time’.
But Leo is in the fortunate position of having already enjoyed a long and successful career at the age of 41.
For a leading man, this is hardly the end of the road, and the actor no doubt has another two or more decades of extraordinary performances in him yet.
He may have been unlucky in the past, but that doesn’t make 2016 the year Leonardo DiCaprio has to win an Oscar.