Before hitting play on Jungle, I genuinely felt in the dark about what I prepared to watch. For some reason, I expected the run time to be filled with commando-style battles against natives and bears. During the credits, I could not believe that I watched a real-life narration about something completely different.
Jungle centers around Yossi Ghinsberg and his fight to survive in the Bolivian jungle. The story of the Israel-born survivor brought a great deal of mystery that remains unsolved to this day.
Warning: Full spoilers below.
For those unfamiliar, Yossi Ghinsberg, Marcus Stamm, Kevin Gale, and “Karl Ruprechter” (more on the quoted name later) traveled into the Bolivian jungles in search of lost tribes and gold. Ghinsberg, having found inspiration in the novel Papillion, was determined to locate a lost tribe and quickly followed along with Ruprechter, who focused on finding the gold. Not wanting to be left behind, Stamm and Gale followed.
During the trip, Stamm suffered from infections in his feet, slowing the group’s progress. Ruprechter and Gale fought on a raft, later discovering Ruprechter was unable to swim. After some talks, Ghinsberg and Gale decided to stay on the river and would meet up with Gale and Ruprechter later in La Paz. Caught up in dangerous rapids, the two wind up separated. Gale was later discovered several days later by natives; Ghinsberg did not get as lucky.
For the next three weeks, Ghinsberg survived in the Amazon rainforest completely on his own, fighting animals, infection, starvation, and himself. At one point, Ghinsberg felt so drained that he found a tree filled with fire ants and shook them on his own body to re-energize himself.
Near the last few days, Ghinsberg began to hallucinate a strange woman that accompanied him on the trip, helping to keep him alive. Gale and Tico Tudela later found Ghinsberg barely alive along the Tuichi River. Sadly, Stamm and the man known as Karl Ruprechter have not been found to this day. More information came to light outlining Ruprechter’s criminal involvement; he was wanted by Interpol.
In Jungle, the events of the movie unfold just as the real story does, with some obvious “Hollywooding” thrown in. I enjoyed watching the evolution of the characters from excitement to despair as the situation grew increasingly worse.
At the halfway point, Jungle shifts entirely onto Daniel Radcliffe, gladly lifting the movie on his shoulders. Watching Radcliffe interact with the environment and tracking his slow deterioration was a masterclass in the art of acting. He dove headfirst into the role, barely eating food to represent Ghinsberg as well as he could.
Thomas Kretschmann also does a marvelous job as Karl. I felt uneasy watching him from the start, knowing full well that his intentions were not pure. Alex Russell (Kevin Gale) and Joel Jackson (Marcus Stamm) also provided great support to Radcliffe. The other minor actors also gave solid performances.
Other than the actors, the environments in Jungle were jaw-dropping. The rainforest filmography occurred in Queensland, Australia, with stunning flora and fauna. The rainforest is truly an imposing environment, and the setting relayed that on-screen. I felt the desperation right along with Radcliffe and the other actors.
On occasion, Jungle wanders into the “Hollywooding” problem, but not enough to take away from the experience. There are a few scenes that felt a bit out of place, and while I loved the ending, the drama may turn some away.
Jungle is a movie that deserves your attention; a fascinating story about the human will to survive.