Jungle (2017)

  • Time: 115 min
  • Genre: Action | Adventure | Drama
  • Director: Greg McLean
  • Cast: Daniel Radcliffe, Thomas Kretschmann, Alex Russell


In the pursuit of self-discovery and authentic experiences, the Israeli backpacker, Yossi Ghinsberg, meets a cryptic Austrian geologist in La Paz, Bolivia, and captivated by his engrossing stories of lost tribes, uncharted adventures and even gold, decides to follow him, circa 1981. Without delay and accompanied by the good friends, Kevin, an American photographer, and Marcus, a Swiss teacher, they join an expedition led by their seasoned trail-leader, deep into the emerald and impenetrable Amazonian rainforest. However, as the endless and inhospitable jungle separates the inexperienced team, before long, Yossi will find himself stranded in the depths of a nightmarish environment crawling with formidable and tireless adversaries. How can one escape this green maze?

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  • After serving his time in the military, all a young Israeli man named Yossi Ghinsberg (Daniel Radcliffe) wants to do is escape the well-worn path that his family, specifically his father, has plotted for him. He desires to be different, experience the extraordinary, enter the unknown, and discover the darkest heart of the jungle.

    Thus, Yossi finds himself in Bolivia, joining other fellow men and women who share the same passion. He meets and immediately befriends Marcus (Joel Jackson), a Swiss schoolteacher with the “heart of a poet and the soul of a saint,” and his closest friend Kevin (Alex Russell), an American known amongst the backpacking community for hiking all over South America and taking amazing photographs. The three become inseparable as they take in the sights and sounds around them. When Yossi is randomly approached by a German geologist Karl (Thomas Kretschmann), who promises to guide him through an uncharted stretch of jungle in order to view a rarely seen Incan tribe, his thirst for adventure is properly whetted and he convinces the initially skeptical Marcus and Kevin to come along.

    The trek begins innocuously enough, though Karl’s aphorisms (“The jungle shows us who we really are”) strike an ominous note from the get-go. The bond between the three friends is soon tested when Marcus’ terribly blistered feet impede their journey. Kevin and Karl nearly come to blows when the quartet make a raft and sail it down the rapids-filled river. Kevin begins to suspect that Karl is not the expert he declares himself to be, and he and Yossi are in agreement that the both of them would make better progress if they separated from Karl and Marcus. As with John Boorman’s Deliverance, Jungle explores the breakdown of masculinity though not with as much depth or insight. Nevertheless, the exchange between Yossi and Marcus as the former tempers his callousness into steering the gentle Marcus into suggesting the group split off beautifully encapsulates this underlying theme.

    Yossi and Kevin fare no better as they wind their way down the river; rapids conspire to divide the two and Yossi realises that he has no one but himself to rely upon as he strives to survive in a most inhospitable land. Red ants, spiders and jaguars threaten bodily harm, fear and hunger corrode his mentality. Radcliffe persuasively conveys not only Yossi’s physical and mental disintegration but also an almost resigned determination to keep going. Yet, despite his often compelling performance, one never fully invests in Yossi’s plight except on a superficial level. Part of this may stem from the screenplay’s prioritising of genre trappings rather than some truly intriguing themes of weakness and masculinity, but it also derives from Yossi being a fairly two-dimensional character on paper and, to a certain extent, in performance.

    Director Greg McLean and cinematographer Stefan Duscio capture both the beauty and horror of the dense jungle landscape. Sound design is rightly sharp and vibrant, and Johnny Klimek’s score is an effective emphasis on the proceedings.

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