Jungle  directed by Greg Mclean tells the true story of a group of friends who venture out into the Bolivian jungle only to find the trip will be much more difficult than anticipated. Starring Daniel Radcliffe, Thomas Kretschmann, Alex Russell, and Joel Jackson.
Get to the good stuff. The film has a lot going for it, with a decent cast (lead by a fairly undiscernible Radcliffe who’s accent is solid about 80% of the time), fantastic cinematography, and what should be a compelling enough survival story. You can tell the survival part is what the film wants to get on about because the first 10 minutes alone feel like they were cut down from at least a half-hour’s worth of character and relationship establishment. There’s this weird sense of promoting the magic of adventure, sharing special moments with a stranger, meeting new friends, and having the time of your life juxtaposed with trying to throw these characters into an obviously awkward and inevitably dangerous scenario. Some voice-over narration and a handful of scenes with characters together do not help the audience buy into the story and really start to care.
Unfriendly jungle. The film always feels about 15 minutes ahead of where it should be in a proper cut, which leads to the assumption that this film had a beefier runtime that was forced to be cut to sub two hours. The editing feels a smidge rushed between moments, and those moments that are built with montage and uplifting music are immediately deadened by mundane moments between them. The main reason for the characters even going on this jungle trek feels strangely rushed and disconnected, and it’s simply a guide who spots Radcliffe’s character in the street and decides to stop him and offer a grand adventure. A multi-day adventure that the gang is much too willing to embark on with this man they’ve just met. There’s also a huge issue with how the passing of time is presented here, as the group goes along for several days with the audience experiencing little more than some walking and talking followed by a campfire scene followed by more walking and talking and another campfire scene. When an apparently week plus amount of time has passed for these characters the audience only feels the screen time that’s passed…which is about 15 minutes. So when one of the fellow’s feet get severely damaged from the rough hiking the two supposed friends are ever so quick to talk about leaving the poor sucker behind so they can exit the jungle faster before the rainy season starts up. I thought we were all the best of friends on a life-changing adventure like 10 minutes ago, and now we’re willing to throw slowpoke aside like he’s a piece of trash?
Survival is painful and gross, mostly gross. The situations that eventually lead to the demise of the group also feel forced, igniting too much hostility from what feels like little build up. When Radcliffe’s Yossi finally is left to fend for himself things find an even stranger balance. Everything starts off fairly basic like any survival story but then things get gross. Scenes showing the lone man wondering around are mixed with gross, bloody, icky injury remedies, necessary sustenance, and physical turmoil. There’s plenty of mental fatigue sprinkled through as well, which cut to daydreams and memories of Yossi as he sleeps in the rain or struggles through mud pits. The tonal shift with these hallucinations and so forth feel off-kilter and surely could have fit more precisely if handled differently. For someone who survived what is apparently weeks in this godforsaken place, he did little more than walked around in circles and lost his mind just a little bit. While it’s incredible that someone actually went through this experience and lived to have a film made about it, there’s little that’s very engrossing to watch.