Let's get this out of the way: No, Leonardo DiCaprio does not get raped by a bear during Alejandro Iñárritu's frontier survival epic The Revenant, based on the life of historic adventurer Hugh Glass. But just about everything else possible or imaginable happens to him on a 200-mile quest through the North and South Dakota wilderness in pursuit of the men who killed his son and left him for dead, after he's mauled by a bear.
The attack scene in question, carried out in real-time, is raw and unflinching from the beginning. The very idea that it would be joked about, or sexualized, at all is astonishing. As the trailer reveals, DiCaprio is taken by surprise after spotting a few seemingly unattended cubs. Their mother is actually nearby and lunges from the bush, tackling him to the ground. You watch as the formidable animal claws his flesh open, chews on his arms, and crushes his ribcage. You hear the bones crack. You feel the beast's hot breath. And just when you think it's all over, the savagery starts again. It could go down in the books as one of the most brutal animal attacks in feature film.
Having his body shattered by a monstrous grizzly is just the start. What follows is an unrelenting series of harrowing experiences, just one of which may have crushed the soul of lesser men. Glass traverses the woods, rendered almost speechless after his throat is nearly ripped out during the battle. He nourishes himself by eating insects and picking at animal skeletons left by other predators. The sheer brutality of each event is only compounded by its contrast to the tranquil beauty of the forest he travels. No question, the screams are undeniably more chilling when they're followed only by wind whispering through pines.
In another traumatizing scene, he's left for dead out in the cold after being attacked by a group of native warriors, chased off a cliff, and his horse laying in front of him after its neck had been snapped by the fall. In the need to escape the elements, he is forced to eviscerate the animal, pull out the entrails, and sleep inside its hollowed carcass.
The aftermaths of each violent encounter are just as unpleasant as the battles themselves, with Glass being left to self-preserve using methods of field care that will leave you joyous to live in the age of gauze and Band-Aids. Blood pours from his neck when he first gets the chance to drink fresh water after the bear attack, leading him to self cauterize the wound using fire and gun powder. His festering wounds heal slowly, with progress being made only after being cared for by a friendly Pawnee Indian.
But as viewers will see, the physical injuries that Glass suffers are secondary when stacked against the psychological torment he endures. Everyone he cares for is lost, sometimes in front of his eyes. In the end he is fueled not by love, or even the will to survive, but by a primal need for revenge.
The Revenant is a tribute, not just to those frontier men like Hugh Glass, but also to a more brutal era. And it's a reminder that the wilderness should always be respected.
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