Jungle tells the real-life story of Yossi Ghinsberg, a man who found himself stranded in an uncharted jungle in the Amazon for three weeks in 1981.
The first hour of the film feels akin to sitting through a slideshow of photos after a relative has returned from holiday. It’s not boring but you’re definitely getting considerably less out of it than the people in the pictures.
Yossi (Daniel Radcliffe) meets Marcus Stamm (Joel Jackson) and Kevin Gale (Alex Russell) whilst travelling in Bolivia and they quickly form a strong friendship. Whilst in the market one day, a stranger, Karl Ruprechter (Thomas Kretschmann), picks Yossi out of the crowd as a tourist and proposes an expedition into an uncharted portion of the jungle to meet an Indian tribe that he supposedly has befriended.
The four of them head into the undergrowth and inevitably, things go wrong as Karl’s backstory becomes increasingly questionable. The characters are eventually separated following a rafting accident, at which point, the film changes gear and becomes a survival thriller as Yossi struggles to stay alive.
Although the film becomes a lot more entertaining thanks to this tonal shift, anyone who’s seen Radcliffe’s recent turn in Swiss Army Man will struggle not to recall his portrayal of a different character attempting to survive in the wilderness – one who just happened to be a farting corpse with an erection. Let’s just say having that in the back of your mind sort of takes the edges off of the more harrowing moments in this film.
Jungle really is a Daniel Radcliffe vehicle and his fans should be thrilled by it. He still hasn’t quite managed to turn out a great performance, but there is some serious dedication to the craft on show here as he dons a ropey Hebrew accent and loses over a stone before your eyes. Your initial instinct will likely be that there’s some digital trickery at play towards the end as he approaches skeletal proportions, but, as the behind-the-scenes material on the Blu-ray attests, he did it for real.
Really, the second half of the film is made up of a series of set pieces in which Yossi has to endure all manner of suffering thrown at him by Mother Nature. One sequence involving worms burrowing under the skin is particularly memorable, albeit very unpleasant.
Strangely, Jungle is a film that manages to feel very soulless and unemotional despite its best efforts. There’s a constant detachment from the characters on screen and so Yossi’s horrendous story never quite plays out as the emotional gut-punch that it seems intended to be.
That said, if only because it is an account of real life, it’s an interesting tale that’s very easy to sit through and it marks some of Radcliffe’s best acting to date as well as showcasing some gorgeous filming locations.
The Blu-ray features a couple of decent behind the scenes docs, a trailer and, inexplicably, the raw interview footage that was edited into those decent behind the scenes docs. Seeing what Radcliffe physically went through to make the film certainly helps you to appreciate it on another level – not to mention that, as ever, he comes across as the nicest man on the planet.
JUNGLE / CERT: 15 / DIRECTOR: GREG MCLEAN / SCREENPLAY: JUSTIN MONJO / STARRING: DANIEL RADCLIFFE, THOMAS KRETSCHMANN, ALEX RUSSELL, YASMIN KASSIM / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW