There’s no doubt that since he graduated from Hogwarts and hung up his wand, Daniel Radcliffe has made a point of searching out challenging and different roles although here, in tackling the remarkable true-life tale of Israeli backpacker Yossi Ghinsberg, he finds himself once again playing a ‘boy who lived’.
Available On Demand from Amazon Video or YouTube Movies, “Jungle tells the story of Yossi Ghinsberg. At 21 years old and recently discharged from the Israeli Army having completed his national service he’s backpacking around South America, revelling in the freedom and wonder of discovery so much, he thinks he may never go home. Along the way, he meets fellow travellers Marcus Stamm (Joel Jackson), a Swiss school teacher, and Marcus’s friend Kevin Gale (Alex Russell), an American photographer and the three of them, entranced by promises of lost tribes, rivers of gold and the chance to set foot in unexplored places agree to follow mysterious Austrian guide Karl Ruchprecter (Thomas Kretschmann) into the rainforest.
Director Greg McLean (“The Belko Experiment”) again explores the extremities of the human experience as he follows the happy band of explorers into the depths of the Amazonian rainforest. For a while, things go well but as the trek starts to take its toll and tensions between the group start to rise somewhat echoing “The Ritual”. But a couple of hair-raising near misses bring the party to an abrupt end as they are forced to pair off and go their separate ways. But it’s when the raft Yossi and Kevin are using capsizes that the real adventure begins as Yossi is swept away by the torrential river and finds himself utterly lost and alone without supplies in the depths of the uncharted wilderness.
Radcliffe delivers an astonishingly committed performance, literally starving himself to capture Yossi’s ordeal as his 19 days in the jungle take their toll. Indeed, Ghinsberg endured so many experiences that there simply wasn’t enough time to include everything that happened to him in the film. With the true story pushing the boundaries of credulity, it’s down to Radcliffe to anchor the pain, determination and desperation into something real and believable and he does a superb job, making the ordeals and survival of Yossi feel tense and authentic.
Underpinning the survival drama is a wry sense of humour, and amusing call outs to “The Jungle Book” which I’d like to think were deliberate. All in all, “Jungle” is an enthralling, well-made true life survival adventure, putting the current crop of ‘celebrities’ and their cushy camps and gross-out games firmly in their place. It’s well worth checking out – from the comfort and safety of your own living room, that is!