MOVIE REVIEW: Radcliffe stars in jungle horror
IT'S a fair distance from Wolf Creek to the Amazon, but Australian director Greg McLean traverses those kilometres with relative ease.
And the director would be hard-pressed to find two more amiable travelling companions than Daniel Radcliffe (Harry Potter) and Alex Russell (Goldstone).
Jungle is based on the true story of Yossi Ghinsberg (Radcliffe), an Israeli backpacker who travels to Bolivia in search of adventure.
It finds him - in the form of a charismatic German expat.
Karl (Thomas Kretschmann) offers to lead Yossi and his mates on an expedition deep into the jungle to a place few white men have ever been.
Yossi's mates are initially sceptical, but he goads them into action.
"You want to go to Machu Picchu like everybody else?"
Karl's enthusiasm seals the deal.
As was apparent from his breakthrough film, McLean gets backpackers.
But the director is really in his element once the men begin their trek.
As they bash through the dense rainforest, home to spectacular but often hostile wildlife, tempers fray and psyches unravel.
Physically and mentally, Marcus (Joel Jackson) struggles.
His close mate Kevin (Russell), an alpha male, views this "weakness" with contempt.
Yossi plays the role of peacemaker, but there's an element of opportunism to his endeavours.
This section of the film plays like a taut psychological thriller. McLean keeps a tight reign on pacing, tension and character development.
Is Karl another Mick Taylor (John Jarratt)? The real deal? Or a wild man wannabe? It's never entirely clear. Maybe a bit of all three.
At this point, Jungle abruptly shifts gear.
The four men decide to separate - two heading down river, the other two taking an overland route.
Since the film is based on Yossi Ghinsberg's memoir, it's his story we follow.
Failing to anticipate a dangerous stretch of rapids, he is pitched headfirst into the raging river.
And from here, Jungle becomes a fairly straightforward survival story as Yossi battles predators, starvation, loneliness and a complete lack of navigation tools.
The narrative, like the lead character, begins to falter.
But when it comes to the parasites Yossi encounters, as well as his challenging diet, McLean's horror background serves the film well.
And as a vehicle for the director to showcase his skills outside his customary genre, Jungle returns the favour.
Jungle opens in cinemas tomorrow.
Stars: Daniel Radcliffe, Alex Russell, Joel Jackson
Director: Greg McLean
Verdict: 3.5 stars