Directed by Greg McLean.
Starring Daniel Radcliffe, Thomas Kretschmann, Alex Russell, Joel Jackson, Lily Sullivan, and Yasmin Kassim.
Three travellers meet up in Bolivia and can’t resist the temptation of a trip into the rainforest to find a lost tribe. When things don’t go according to plan, two of them give up and the others carry on, but are soon separated. The local villagers find one of them, but the other is stranded in the jungle.
Remember that TV show, Walk on the Wild Side, the one where the animals had human voiceovers? There was a marmot which seemed to be yelling “Alan! Alan! Alan!” Given the way that a lost Daniel Radcliffe wanders around the Bolivian rainforest in Jungle yelling “Kevin! Kevin! Kevin!” at the top of his voice, I can only assume he saw it as well.
Which is to make light of a film that takes itself rather seriously, pitching itself as a tropical version of The Revenant – man struggling against the elements, only this time hot, sweaty ones without a dead horse to hide in. But what director Greg Mclean’s film really demonstrates is how difficult it can be to make this type of survival movie interesting and keep hold of its audience. It also serves as a reminder that The Revenant did it rather well.
Not so this Australian/Colombian co-production, which has Radcliffe in the main role, presumably as a carrot to his many fans, and is based on a true story. He’s one of a trio of friends travelling the world in the early 80s, all of whom fetch up in Bolivia. They’re all looking for adventure and can’t resist the temptation of a trip into the rainforest to find a lost tribe, with the slightly sinister Karl (Thomas Kretschmann) as their guide. But one of them, Marcus (Joel Jackson) isn’t cut out for the rigours of the climate and the group have to decide how to go forward. Eventually, Marcus goes with Karl, while Yossi (Radcliffe) and Kevin (Alex Russell) head off along the river on a raft. But the rapids take their toll, the two are separated and, while Kevin is found by some local villagers, Yossi is stranded in the jungle ….
With mainstream horror movies being released on almost a weekly basis, it’s easy to assume this would be another one. Karl, for instance, could be some sort of psycho. He’s not and the film’s not. Nor is it a Deliverance style endurance movie. It’s closer to The Revenant, showing just how high and dry we humans can be in the natural world, a world where we don’t belong. Where the water that sustains us can also kill us, the animals and insects feed off us and where the climate is nigh on impossible, in this case either torrential rain or brilliant sunshine. Yet, to the outside world, it all looks remarkably benign and beautiful, in a National Geographic sort of way.
You have to respect it’s based on a true story. But you have to assume that the budget was decidedly limited, because it’s glaringly obvious that some of the jungle scenes have been filmed on a set. Some location work was done in Bolivia itself, but the majority of the shoot was in Australia: these scenes at least look authentic, but it could be any old rainforest. And it certainly doesn’t have the humidity that goes with the tropics: apart from when he’s drenched – and it happens regularly – Radcliffe doesn’t appear to sweat overmuch. Nor does his beard grow or his hair, yet he’s stuck in the jungle for the best part of three weeks.
It’s not all bad. If you like a good wince, then Radcliffe removing the parasite growing under the skin on his forehead will do the job nicely. And the underwater scenes when the raft gets smashed going over the rapids are effective enough. But once Radcliffe is stranded in the jungle, the majority of the second half of the film is all about that, and not much else. There’s no sense of urgency and the quest to find him is left right until the end, when it’s too late to build up any tension. There’s no doubting his character’s resilience, but it doesn’t make for an absorbing experience. Just a plodding one. And one that, rather like its central character, loses its way.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★
Freda Cooper. Follow me on Twitter.