Sunday, April 8, 2018

JUNGLE (2017) (Umbrella Blu-ray Review)

JUNGLE (2017) 

Label: Umbrella Entertainment
Region Code: Region-Free
Rating: M
Duration: 115 Minutes
Audio: English DTS-HD MA Surround 5.1 with Optional English Subtitles
Video: 1080p HD Widescreen (2.35:1)
Director: Greg McLean
Cast: Alex Russell, Daniel Radcliffe, Thomas Kretschman

From Australian director Greg McLean (Wolf Creek) comes the true-life story of Israeli world traveler Yossi Ghinsberg (Daniel Radcliffe, Swiss Army Man) who heads to the Bolivian jungle in the early 80's to fulfill some sort of 20-something wanderlust. There he meets kindred adventuresome spirits Kevin Gale (Alex Russell, Carrie), an American photographer, and school Swiss teacher Marcus Stamm (Joel Jackson, Peter Allen: Not the Boy Next Door). Banding together they travel upriver towards the real uncharted innards of the Amazonian wilds with the guidance of the enigmatic Austrian adventurer (read: we're all gonna be in real trouble here) named Karl (Thomas Kretschmann, King Kong), who plies the young men with tales of jungle riches and a lost primitive tribe. 

The deeper they go the more troublesome the adventure becomes, and as this is a Greg McLean production I half expected the guide Karl to be some sort of Mick Taylor-esque murderous weirdo who ensnares the naive tourist in a death trap, and while he certainly puts the group in danger when his seemingly knowledgeable skills as a guide fails them he's not the villain. He begins to fall apart when the proposition of some impromptu whitewater rafting comes into play, forcing a fracture in the group, with Karl and the Swiss teacher going one way and Yossi and Kevin taking to the river in their homemade raft. From the fracture point we follow the river rafters, but a turn of unfortunate events  leaves Yossi on his own, hopelessly lost and wandering the rain forest alone, coping with starvation, exhaustion, hallucinations, parasites, quicksand, phantom companions and fire ants, not to mention his own sanity beginning to wane. 

This survival tale was completely engrossing, Radcliffe giving his finest performance to date as the young man who perseveres through the jungle solo for three weeks alone through sheer will power and spiritual belief, but the journey is fraught with all manner of horrific struggle, a disturbing scene features Yossi discovering a lump on his forehead and realizes somethings moving around in there, forcing him to perform a impromptu surgical extraction, removing a rather large parasitic worm which was just squirm-inducing.

I kept waiting for a Cannibal Holocaust moment to come around at some point, the same way I kept waiting for Karl to turn into a Mick Taylor terror earlier, but neither scenario manifested itself, in fact Karl offered plenty of survival tips that Yossi along on his journey. It's a nice turn to see McLean turn his skill from harrowing outback nightmares like Rogue and Wolf Creek to thus uplifting survival-thriller that is every bit and bleak and brutal as his earlier stuff, but comes through the other side as an uplifting tale, his style translates well. 

That's not to say it's perfect, the movie is a slow-burn for the first third as the elements come together, the best part is when the foursome are together on the adventure, when their bonds begin to fray and they start to wear on each other when the going gets tougher than they were prepared for, that's the best stuff I think. Once Yossi finds himself alone the tone changes, now we're on a solo survival thriller and while it's a compelling tale of survival it also struggles to keep the pace, with Yossi mentally fraying and going off on trippy fantasies and having flashbacks, then it begins to drag and the start/stop momentum started to wear on me a bit. 

Special Features: 
- Becoming Yossi featurette
- The Making of the Yossi Ghinsberg story
Cast and Crew Interviews- Theatrical trailer

Audio/Video: Jungle (2017) arrives on region-free Blu-ray from Umbrella Entertainment framed in gorgeous 2.35:1 scope widescreen, the jungle survival thriller looks amazing in crisp HD, the green canopy of the jungle and wilds of the untamed river look breath-taking, the image is fantastic. The English DTS-HD MA Surround 5,1 is also robust and powerful with some wonderful use of the surrounds, putting you right there in the jungle with Yossi, it's a very immersive experience, optional English subtitles are provided.

Extras include a handful of EPK material with interviews from the cast and crew, including director Greg McLean and stars Daniel Radcliffe, Alex Russell, and Thomas Kretschman,

While it has some pacing issues along the nearly two hour running time I still found it very compelling, Radcliffe is nothing short of amazing here and McLean has made a fierce and thrilling slice of survival horror. The film is based on Yossi Ghinsber's own biographical survival a story and the film wraps with images and stories of the real people, including Karl and Marcus whom were never heard from again, wrapping up what happened to Yossi and  Kevin in the ensuing years, it's quite a story and it makes for a harrowing watch with a nicely uplifting finale, not what I've come to expect from nightmare-maker Greg McLean, but I liked it a lot.  

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