The Movie Waffler New to Netflix - JUNGLE | The Movie Waffler

New to Netflix - JUNGLE

jungle review
A group of naive backpackers go in search of a lost Amazon tribe.

Review by Benjamin Poole

Directed by: Greg McLean

Starring: Daniel Radcliffe, Alex Russell, Thomas Kretschmann, Lily Sullivan, Yasmin Kassim

jungle 2017 film dvd

All hail Daniel Radcliffe, unsung hero of independent off-beat cinema. A while ago there was this spurious little think piece in The Grauniad, in which the writer pontificated obtusely upon the state of the great Radcliffe’s post-franchise career; this petty idea that since D-Rad’s present star status has not matched the marquee heights of an already pre-sold, gargantuan sequence of films based on a million billion selling, beloved bunch of children’s books, movies which were realised with all the budgetary and marketing might of one of the largest and most vertically integrated studios in the entire world, then it could only mean that our Daniel must be ‘cursed’.

jungle review

I beg to differ. Radcliffe is awesome. Not only has your man side-stepped the heart-breaking off-screen madness that can befall child actors propelled to stardom, but he’s done it with such panache. No tiresome scandals, no ego-tripping, just lovely D-Rads and his delightfully weird appearances on chat shows, and his consistently left-field choice of roles. Here is an actor who went from kids' lit to gay beat poetry (Kill Your Darlings), YA horror (Horns) to botty-burp epic Swiss Army Man. D-Rads' presence in these films, his geeky handsomeness, his sad vulnerability, is always idiosyncratic (I could write reams, for example, about his portrayal of fragile masculinity in 2012’s The Woman in Black…).

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Which means it’s a real shame that Greg McClean’s Jungle isn’t up to much. Based on a true story, in the film Radcliffe plays Yossi, an Israeli backpacker who, for the bants, decides to explore the uncharted depths of the Amazon rainforest in search of a ‘lost Indian tribe’. Yossi is egged on by three other travellers, who are friends in that peripheral way which travelling companions are (i.e., virtual strangers, it turns out), and, after an interminable build up of pretty locations and the usual tropes of the gap-year travelogue (someone reads Camus, there’s some soft drugs), it all goes tits up.

jungle review

Jungle insinuates towards the sort of themes that The Green Inferno and its ilk crudely probed, the sense that Yossi and his pals are yet more patronising westerners, who visit foreign territories, with their humble and impoverished people, to simply grab a bit of ‘self-discovery’ before jetting on back to their metropolitan privilege to bore the rest of us about it all. However, despite Yossi’s excitable mention of ‘wild Indians’ (!), this subtext is left alone for the most part, and instead a (rather gentle) lost in the jungle narrative emerges.

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Fans of the peerless Wolf Creek or even the pitiless fun of anti-crocodile propaganda piece Rogue, McClean’s earlier forays into horror, may well be disappointed by this almost tension free survival drama. Perhaps because Jungle is a true story it is clear from the off that D-Rads will get out alive, and, in fairness, he’s the only one we really care about, due to his established persona and recognisable charisma (another example of Radcliffe using his iconic relevance for good, his very presence here promoting this potentially tough sell).

jungle review

Still, unlike, say 127 Hours (another true story about an idiot), there is scant suspense here, and instead odd little sequences like a trippy sex scene and a third act (literally, as it occurs during rainy season) wet dream (with, and I’m not making this up, a ‘boing’ sound effect), which I’m guessing were only included to mediate the potential homo-erotic suggestions of four young lads at camp and reassure us that Radcliffe’s character is Not Gay. Towards the end there is some delicious body horror involving mangled feet and a forehead worm to look forward to, but by the time that comes around you may well feel similarly trapped like Yossi, wondering when, or indeed if, it will all end.

Jungle is on Netflix UK now.