JUNGLE — Review by Susan Granger

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There are two extraordinary aspects to Australian director Greg McLean’s latest adventure: 1) it’s based on a true story, and 2) diminutive Daniel Radcliffe actually starved himself to emaciation to achieve authenticity.

In 1981, when 21 year-old Yossi Ghinsberg (Radcliffe) leaves his family in Tel Aviv to spend a year traveling in the United States and South America, they fear the worst – perhaps with good reason when he joins a backpacking expedition in Bolivia.

Friendly, gullible Yossi is befriended in La Paz by enigmatic Karl Ruchprecter (Thomas Kretschmann), an Austrian who spins tales about lost Inca tribes and rivers of gold, hidden deep in the Amazonian jungle.

Impulsively, Yossi convinces two other trekkers – Kevin Gale (Alex Russell), an American photographer, and bespectacled Marcus Stamm (Joel Jackson), a gentle Swiss schoolteacher – to join them on the Tuichi River expedition.

As their trail-leader, Karl claims not only to know the rainforest territory but he also shows them a map, indicating just where they’ll walk. Arrogantly, he sets a gung-ho pace which soon causes enough friction that the original foursome decide to split into pairs.

While Karl and Marcus, whose feet are badly blistered, continue to trudge on-foot, impatient Kevin opts to build a raft to sail down the rapids, accompanied by Yossi. But shortly after they’re launched, the rickety raft crashes into a rock, and Yossi is thrown into the churning water.
Wearily dragging himself to shore with a bad head wound, Yossi is all alone – with Kevin nowhere to be found. It is man-versus-nature, as Yossi encounters one ominous obstacle after another, grievously suffering, both physically and mentally.

Based on Yossi Ghinsberg 2005 memoir, it’s scripted by Justin Monjo, who fails to properly flesh out any of the supporting characters, concentrating totally on Yossi and his drug-enhanced hallucinations.

On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, Jungle is a survivalist 6 – and kudos to Daniel Radcliffe for rising to this grueling wilderness challenge.

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Susan Granger

Susan Granger is a product of Hollywood. Her natural father, S. Sylvan Simon, was a director and producer at R.K.O., M.G.M. and Columbia Pictures; her adoptive father, Armand Deutsch, produced movies at M.G.M. As a child, Susan appeared in movies with Abbott & Costello, Red Skelton, Lucille Ball, Margaret O'Brien and Lassie. She attended Mills College in California, studying journalism with Pierre Salinger, and graduated from the University of Pennsylvania with highest honors in journalism. During her adult life, Susan has been on radio and television as an anchorwoman and movie/drama critic. Her newspaper reviews have been syndicated around the world, and she has appeared on American Movie Classics cable television. In addition, her celebrity interviews and articles have been published in REDBOOK, PLAYBOY, FAMILY CIRCLE, COSMOPOLITAN, WORKING WOMAN and THE NEW YORK TIMES, as well as in PARIS MATCH, ELLE, HELLO, CARIBBEAN WORLD, ISLAND LIFE, MACO DESTINATIONS, NEWS LIMITED NEWSPAPERS (Australia), UK DAILY MAIL, UK SUNDAY MIRROR, DS (France), LA REPUBBLICA (Italy), BUNTE (Germany), VIP TRAVELLER (Krisworld) and many other international publications through SSG Syndicate. Susan also lectures on the "Magic and Mythology of Hollywood" and "Don't Take It Personally: Conquering Criticism and other Survival Skills," originally published on tape by Dove Audio.