Rates: * * * 1/2
Why Did I Watch It? Recommended by my work colleague Kate.
In the early 1980s, a couple of boyish free spirits team up with a wildlife photographer and trek around South America. They see the sights, pick up girls, and generally travel light/low rent. Then they meet Ken, a rugged outdoorsy type who sells them on a vision of leaving the well worn tourist path behind, and setting out into the jungle proper. Excitement, adventure, and previously undiscovered native tribes.
And if you have ever watched a movie before, you know this is not going to work out well; there is a whole sub genre of lost in <insert remote location> survival stories. But, even by these standards, the characters in this are amazingly naive.
Although they have no jungle experience, no map or compass, and only the vaguest notion as to where they are, once things start going amiss two of them have no hesitation leaving their guide behind and setting out on their own. They build a rickety raft and launch into a wild river that brings to mind the phrase ‘certain death’. Sure enough, they are soon separated, injured, drenched, starving, and left to try and scrap their way out on their own.
As the highest profile of the actors involved, Daniel Radcliffe becomes the focus of the story, once it stops being an ensemble. And credit to Mr Potter: he really goes for it. Covered in mud, picking parasites out of his skull, eating rotten fruit and drinking black water; he gives a fully committed performance that is suitably extreme. His odyssey is backdropped by the jungles of Colombia, it was mostly shot on location, and this provides for some striking, Nat Geo style, imagery.
But being on location seems to have gone to director Greg McLean’s head. Seemingly every second shot is from a helicopter, swooping over the endless green canopy. In case you don’t get this, here is what it means: the jungle is big. Likewise, there are many mini montages of Radcliffe’s character yelling, or running, or slamming his bag on the ground in frustration. The repetitive use of these two techniques makes you feel, perhaps, that the director has run out of ideas, rather than this really adding to the sense of mounting desperation, and isolation.
Luckily, Radcliffe can supply this on his own, And, I am a sucker for a survival story in a remote location, and this is a pretty good version of that.
Also: two of the characters vanish without a trace, and Radcliffe is only rescued due to a crazy fluke of a coincidence. Was I the only one to question: did all this actually happen? Some of these stories have been shown to be false over the years (Peter Weir’s otherwise excellent survival film, ‘The Way Back’, has been shown to be almost certainly a made up story), and I did wonder.