When the search for enlightenment goes terribly wrong all that’s left is hope and the determination to survive.
Three friends set off into the Amazon jungle looking adventure and something different but no amount of preparation could prepare them for what lay ahead.Choosing not to lead what some might call a conventional life, Yossi Ghinsberg decides to travel the world and find out what else life has to offer. Played brilliantly by Daniel Radcliffe, Israeli born Yossi plans to only travel for one year before returning to his family. Whilst on his travels in South America Yossi befriends the Swedish Marcus Stamm (Joel Jackson) and by chance they both run into one of Marcus’s closest friends, an American called Kevin Gale (Alex Russell). As the time for Kevin and Marcus to return to their regular, everyday lives draws ever closer, Yossi finds himself not quite ready to give up the nomadic life he has come to love. So when Karl Ruchprecter (Thomas Kretschmann) – a charismatic and experienced explorer – befriends Yossi and tells him about a hidden world deep within the Amazon jungle, the chance for a real adventure, off the beaten track, seems just too good to miss.Yossi eventually persuades his two pals to at least meet with Karl before they turn down this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. With promises of enough gold to fill their pockets and the chance for Kevin to take some photographs more than worthy of National Geographic, not mention the thrill and excitement of seeing a part of the world others only dream of, the three friends begin the preparations for the ultimate adventure into the heart of the Amazon rainforest. The three of them blindly follow Karl into the jungle, putting their faith and trust in a man they’ve only just met. But not without good reason, as Karl explains he’s been through the jungle on many occasions, leading thrill seekers just like them into the depths of the rainforest in search of excitement. It also helps that Karl talks the talk and definitely walks the walk – he’s the strong, confident type but also the type that gives the impression he’s not one to cross or challenge.
As they get farther and farther from civilisation, heading deeper into the beautiful but harsh jungle, the elements start to take their toll and cause the group to split up – half taking the river and half continuing on foot – in order to reach their destination. This is where things start to go from bad to worse. Yossi eventually finds himself separated from everyone as well as from all the supplies they packed. All alone with no food or shelter Yossi is forced to survive using what little knowledge he already has and from the few skills he’s managed to pick up from Karl.
Jungle works extremely well in its ability to showcase the sumptuous and beautiful scenery as well as the devastating effects it can have on those who venture into it without having the necessary skills. The cinematography is breath taking in places, something you could imagine Richard Attenborough narrating. Glorious overhead shots display the sheer scale of the rainforest as well as making, albeit briefly, a reference to the ecological impact we humans are having on it. It’s easy to get drawn into the story of survival our main characters face and forget that this is a film based on the actual experiences of the real life Yossi, as told in his book 'Jungle: A Harrowing True Story Of Survival'. The film is well directed by Greg McLean (Wolf Creek) who manages to keep engagement levels peaked throughout by steadily increasing the tension as our characters’ situations become more severe.
Daniel Radcliffe gives a gripping performance as Yossi Ghinsberg
Radcliffe has well and truly shed any threat of being pigeon-holed or typecast from his time spent as Harry Potter. Radcliffe is great as Yossi, once again proving his diversity as an actor, delivering a strong performance and a decent accent to boot – that didn’t seem to falter at any point. Karl’s character is played by Kretschmann with a seriousness that implies something sinister lurks beneath the surface. He is a man that is not to be questioned. Even though the roles of the two friends take something of a backseat compared to Yossi they are both equally important and vital to the series of events that unfolds. They are also played equally well by Jackson and Russell – two polar opposites that find their friendship and their endurance pushed to the limits.
Jungle is one of those films where you can’t help but imagine yourself in the same situation and it works extremely well in putting you in the position of the characters on screen, especially Yossi. Even though ultimately you know how it will end, there are still a few surprises and a bit of misdirection thrown in to keep you on your toes. It’s a thrilling story with a couple of real stomach churning moments that highlight just how cruel the jungle can be.
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