Combustible Celluloid
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With: Daniel Radcliffe, Alex Russell, Thomas Kretschmann, Yasmin Kassim, Joel Jackson, Jacek Koman, Lily Sullivan, Angie Milliken, Joey Vieira, Paris Moletti, Luis Jose Lopez
Written by: Justin Monjo, based on a book by Yossi Ghinsberg
Directed by: Greg McLean
MPAA Rating: R for language and some drug use
Running Time: 115
Date: 10/20/2017

Jungle (2017)

1 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

'Jungle' Grim

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

This true story fell into the hands of exploitation director Greg McLean, and he chooses a numbingly middling approach; the movie is too blunt to be sympathetic, but also too careful to be thrilling.

In Jungle, which is based on a true story, Israeli adventurer Yossi Ghinsberg (Daniel Radcliffe) heads to Bolivia. There, he meets Marcus (Joel Jackson), and then Marcus's best friend, photographer Kevin (Alex Russell). After some galavanting about, Yossi meets explorer Karl (Thomas Kretschmann), who offers to take them deep into the Amazonian jungle to meet a remote tribe of people and possibly find gold.

Before long, Marcus begins to have trouble with his feet, and Yossi and Kevin are left on their own. But an accident on a river separates them, and Yossi finds himself alone, without supplies. Kevin finds a village and sets out searching for Yossi, but it's a big jungle... can Yossi survive until rescue comes?

Even as Jungle begins with its most innocuous scenes, McLean adopts a short attention-span approach, cutting every couple of seconds and creating a monotonous rhythm, a blur of movements and events. It feels too controlled for anything to happen organically. It never slows down long enough to get to know the characters, nor does it speed up enough to achieve a decent pace.

Additionally, it's surprising that McLean, whose previous movies Wolf Creek (2005), Wolf Creek 2 (2014), and The Belko Experiment (2017) pushed the envelope for gore, should tone down Jungle, as if attempting to respect its true story, or trying to elevate his career to some degree of credibility. By the time the movie gets to its climax, with Yossi alone in the jungle and doing whatever it takes to survive, it fails to be either shocking or thrilling. It's merely uncomfortable.

Give Daniel Radcliffe credit, however, for his demanding physical performance; post-Harry Potter, he continues to select challenging projects.

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