VOD film review: Jungle
Shock and awe8
Chris Bryant | On 22, Oct 2017
Director: Greg McLean
Cast: Daniel Radcliffe, Thomas Kretschmann
Based on Yossi Ghinsberg’s autobiographical telling of a colossal story of survival, Jungle depicts four travellers’ adventure into the Bolivian rainforest – and the lethal struggles that come with it.
Yossi (Daniel Radcliffe) takes a gap year and heads to South America. Making friends with Marcus (Joel Jackson) and up-and-coming photographer Kevin (Alex Russell), they decide to go off the beaten track and into the rainforest. Under the guidance of enigmatic wanderer Karl (Thomas Kretschmann), the trio enter the jungle with the promise of a gold, indigenous tribes, and a experience unlike any other.
The first half of Jungle serves to instil a sense of excitement for the pursuit of adventure, to express the worldly curiosity felt by the 21-year old Yossi, as a series of flashbacks depict his relationship with his family, America, and Judaism. While presenting an intriguing sociological view, this portion falls short of entertaining and gives a firmly two-dimensional look at the travellers’ motivations and their interactions. While makeshift tour-guide Karl crosses the borderline from arrogant to sinister, it’s only once the river splits the group up that Jungle really gets to work.
Once Radcliffe is front-and-centre, he gives what might be his best performance yet, as Jungle’s onslaught of the brutal, upsetting, and hopeless takes control and produces an incredibly tense journey through the young man’s battle with nature. The thriller ensures that the natural conditions of the Amazon rainforest are all that is needed to test the viewers’ stomachs. With Greg McLean’s history of intelligent horrors to bring out the terror in Ghinsberg’s true story, the film’s command of fear ensures the viewer remains alongside Radcliffe’s Yossi through every terrible experience.
McLean’s unrelenting picture forces upon the audience the message that survival in the Jungle is not what they think it is. It repeats it, time and time again, using brutality, desperation, disgust, isolation, and instinct as reminders to make sure everyone understands. From the moment the panic first kicks in for Yossi, it never leaves.
Blending a spiritual element into Yossi’s life-or-death exploration, Jungle maintains focus on the characters’ reactions to their desperate situations. This gritty second hour makes the introductory first hour seem even more bland by comparison, concluding as an awe-inspiring story of survival and faith, trading straightforward dialogue and all-round normality for heart-pounding decisions and one of the big screen’s most realistic glimpses of nature’s ruthlessness.