Tom Hardy received his first Oscar nomination for portraying John Fitzgerald in The Revenant.
Now as threatening as Hardy makes the man in simply his nature, Hardy adds to all of this through his domineering screen presence. Hardy can hold a scene all in his own way, even in some his earliest work like Black Hawk Down and Layer Cake he stood out making his characters seem far more important than they were, and in 2015 he made a scene of just mutely indicating how he wanted guns passed to him completely captivating. On a quick side note I can't help but feel that his performance in Mad Max is becoming criminally underrated as though his performance was just a given. Hardy has more lines to deal with in this case but once again commands his place in the film in that fashion so unique to Hardy himself. Hardy adds to the threat and menace of Fitzgerald as a character through this. Hardy's great because he never allows Fitzgerald to seem second to anyone, as he even when he's taking orders from Captain Henry, he always seems to exude a control of his own domain. Hardy gives Fitzgerald the needed impact to be a great villain, and probably even without saying anything Hardy could have been able to make Fitzgerald a worthy adversary for his rival survivalist of sorts Hugh Glass.
Hardy with the setup of the character, just in his physical manner, and that dominance he exudes so well makes Fitzgerald a palatable threat throughout the film. What I love perhaps the most though is that Hardy in his depiction of Fitzgerald's most active scenes does not portray him as this evil mastermind, but instead plays him...as well to quote Marty McFly in Back to the Future 3 "he's an asshole". In the early scenes, even before anything goes wrong, Hardy is terrific in playing up just how consistently miserable Fitzgerald makes everyone else with his focus on just his own personal pelts. Now what's so great about what Hardy does with this is actually how unrelenting he is in making Fitzgerald such a pain in everyone's backside. Hardy doesn't mind showing exactly what Fitzgerald is with most his behavior, which is that of a single minded jerk. This could have seemed too much, but I have to give Hardy the most credit as in his depiction of behavior he's only ever reminded me of people I've known with a similair self absorption. Hardy's loud and that's the only way to be with a man like Fitzgerald who really wants everyone to know quite clearly he only cares about himself. One of my favorite moments in Hardy's performance is his reaction to seeing Glass's mauled, it isn't concern, its just that of lout who's annoyed that this will probably inconvenience him in some way. This might not have worked but Hardy makes it so brutally honest that it absolutely does.
Hardy takes this feature in Fitzgerald and makes it almost too genuine. Hardy's so good because he shows it to be such casual behavior, though actually ties into the mindset of a survivalist, as he can't even wrap his head around the idea that he should ever put someone else first. Hardy makes it so perfectly plain that the first concern for Fitzgerald is always Fitzgerald. Another one of my favorite moments in this performance, I have lots of them I must confess, is when they are struggling to keep moving Glass and it is decided that three men must stay with him. The first two being volunteers, who even will put up their own pay for the sake of Glass, but the third does not come forward. No one will take it until the Captain, and the two men basically offer a great sum of cash to the third man. Hardy's reaction again is flawless as he shows Fitzgerald's face light up. Again Hardy does not keep it as a master plan, he does not suggest that Fitzgerald already has plans for Glass, rather he really makes even worse by so blatantly putting it that Fitzgerald just doing the whole thing for money. When he does end up trying to get Glass to agree to death, Hardy's once again marvelous by finding such a callous indifference to life, this time not even due to malice rather due to impatience, though once again from being concerned only with his own life.
Now with that comes Fitzgerald's most heinous act, which is brilliantly performed by Hardy. This is again because of something atypical Hardy does, that once alludes to the nature of his character. In the moment there is a viciousness but only as though its his instinctual reaction to being attacked, especially by a native. Hardy only emphasizes this all the more as a second or too later basically acknowledes that he went overboard, not through genuine empathy but rather through an especially cruel shrug. That instinctual reaction though is given sense by Hardy when Fitzgerald recounts to the other man who stays to watch Glass, Bridger (Will Poulter), when he was scalped. It's a beautifully played moment by Hardy as he once again keeps Fitzgerald's tone of voice as a bit indifferent and a bit hateful, but in his eyes, that are away from Bridger, you can see that he's about to cry, and is actively trying to keep his composure. Hardy reveals the pain in Fitzgerald from his past, and is even moving in the moment as Fitzgerald only reveals to himself the sensitive man traumatized by his mistreatment. From this though Hardy creates the sense of much of the man's motivation which above all else is his survival. This is reflected all the more in perhaps Hardy's best scene as he recounts to Bridger a story about Fitzgerald's own father finding God in a squirrel. It's an outstanding scene for Hardy as he recounts the story with an underlying warmth, and manages to be genuinely inspiring as he speaks the words. What's so fantastic about it is that Hardy does not compromise the character. It's still all about himself though as he presents the words in a way that it is Fitzgerald in fact comforting himself with the story. Hardy is so good because he does not hold back in terms of the villainy of the character yet still gives him depth. His final scene is a grand example of that as he's so downright pitiless as he even takes away anything Glass could have gotten from his revenge, by bluntly stating the futility of it, yet Hardy still brings a very real fear in face all the same. Hardy balances it all so well, and its astonishing that he even can bring a bit of levity to the proceedings while still maintaining the character without question. This is outstanding work from Hardy, and I loved every second of this performance.