Quick Hit: A terrific performance goes wasted due to melodramatic direction.
I can’t think of an actor that has had a run of movies quite like Daniel Radcliffe after the Harry Potter series. He immediately followed the last movie with The Woman In Black, then moved to Horns, in which he plays a character that wakes up with horns one day, based on a novel by Stephen King’s son, Joe Hill. From there, he plays a side character in Trainwreck, plays the iconic Igor in Victor Frankenstein, takes the role as someone who hangs out with a flatulating corpse in Swiss Army Man, and now leads the cast of Jungle. It’s a tremendous turn run of movies from an actor that has actually shown much more skill than he let off in his most famous role.
Jungle is part thriller and part survival story. Radcliffe plays Yossi Ghinsberg, a young Jewish man traveling through South America. He makes friends with a Swiss teacher, Marcus (Joel Jackson) and an American photographer Kevin (Alex Russell). A slightly shady guide named Karl (Thomas Kretschmann) convinces the group to hike into the jungle with him in order to see tribes of natives that few others have seen. Eventually, things occur and the group fractures, leaving Yossi to subsist on his own.
Honestly, that is one of my biggest issues with the film. It sets up so much around Yossi just to tear it down and start painting a by the numbers survival thriller that is indicative of Cast Away or The Revenant. I was actually really into both halves of the story… but they don’t fit as well together as they really should.
This however, is of no fault to the actors, who are nearly all terrific. Radcliffe, as stated in the opening paragraph, shows exactly how good he is. He takes his performance further than the screen and undergoes the physical transformation that many win Oscars for. He literally ebbs away on screen before our eyes, and he sells the kind of devastation one would expect. Yossi Ghinsberg was a real person, and Jungle is based on his memoir, and Radcliffe does him justice. I’d also like to point out that Kretschmann does a really good job as Karl – giving him just enough that exactly how much he knows.
Once Ghinsberg is left on his own – Greg McLean’s directing skills and woes really start to show. For example, he gives us some terrific examples of some extremely terrifying body horror, including one of the most disturbing scenes I watched this year. McLean also directed The Belko Experiment, so he knows how to disturb with small shots of violence. But what’s unfortunate is just how much he gets tied up in the drama of the situation. We get several flashbacks to Yossi prior to his trip into South America, and each one just builds onto the typical Hollywood drama.
I’ll leave you with this – Jungle overall is worth watching, but it misses out on being truly good by just a few poor decisions. I’ll give it a “C+”.
For more on this film, check out IMDB.
"All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy"