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Film review: Jungle

Daniel Radcliffe sheds Harry Potter's cloak - as well as quite a few pounds - to star in the true story of stranded explorer Yossi Ghinsberg

 

    Fresh from playing a flatulent talking corpse in Dan Kwan and Daniel Scheinert’s surreal indie hit Swiss Army Man, Daniel Radcliffe is back in a new role which sees him take on an impressive physical transformation and a commendable Israeli accent as he plays adventurer Yossi Ghinsberg.

    Adapted by Australian director Greg McLean (Wolf Creek, The Belko Experiment ) from Ghinsberg's book of the same name, Jungle recounts the extraordinary story of how a young Israeli traveller who managed to survive alone for almost three weeks in the Amazonian jungle after he and two fellow travellers were lured in by a shady Austrian guide on a false promise.

    It’s 1981 and 22 year old Yossi (Radcliffe) is slowly making his way through the South American continent’s most picturesque hiking trails.

    After completing his mandatory Israeli military service, he has taken the decision travel halfway across the globe in the hope of meeting undiscovered Amazonian tribes.

    Arriving on the shores of the Lake Titicaca in Peru, Yossi meets and instantly strikes up a friendship with amiable Swiss teacher Marcus (Joel Jackson) and American photographer Kevin (Joel Jackson). The trio soon become inseparable, sharing digs, food and spending almost every waking hour together.

    Things take a dark turn when Yossi is one day singled out by mysterious Austrian guide Karl (Thomas Kretschmann), a man in his forties who lures Yossi in with the promise of a journey into an uncharted territory off the tourist trail. Talking his two reluctant companions into joining him, Yossi excitedly follows creepy Karl into the jungle, but soon the adventure turns into a waking nightmare for the group.

    Mostly famed amongst horror circles as a member of the “splat pack”, a group of directors known for their brutally violent horror movies, McLean does a decent enough job in setting the scene earlier on in the proceedings.

    However, the director just can’t seem to resist the urge of turning the whole thing into another one of his predictable blood-soaked productions. While Justin Monjo’s beautifully crafted screenplay offers an interesting storyline and a commendable parallel narrative of dream-like sequences, the film is ultimately let down by a less than subtle directing style.

    Radcliffe is faultless in his depiction Ghinsberg, he manages to inhabit the role from the offset, his accent is near perfect as is his ability to convey the extents of the horror lived by his character.

    Undergoing rigorous dieting in order to portray his character at his weakest, Radcliffe is more than believable in the role, and by the end you’ll find yourself forgetting that it’s Harry Potter behind the bushy beard and emaciated body.

    On the whole, Jungle does a great job in keeping its audiences hooked from the get go, but just don’t expect much else from it beyond the usual man v nature narrative.

    At almost two hours long, the film could have also benefited from shedding some of its more drawn out dream-like sequences, but don’t let that put you off from this otherwise compelling story.