In 1981, after completing his service in the Israeli Navy, a 21 year old adventurer named Yossi Ghinsberg whose thirst for travel and discovery had already seen him undertake many risky and unusual journeys, made a fateful decision to travel into the Bolivian jungle to a then uncharted part of the Tuichi River region..  He and two friends (Marcus, a Swiss teacher, and Kevin, an American photographer who both shared Yossi’s craving for adventure and experience had met a mysterious Austrian named Karl Ruprechter in La Paz who claimed to be a geologist with a map that would enable them to locate both gold and a so called ‘lost tribe’, the Toromonas, deep within the jungle.  What then happened saw two of the four vanishing in the wilderness never to be heard of again and a truly epic tale of survival by Ghinsberg against near insurmountable odds.


Based on Ghinsberg’s book “Jungle: A Harrowing True Story of Survival”, this film details how a man with the most tenacious will to live, lasted for three weeks without supplies or equipment, and utterly alone in a hostile environment battling starvation, infected wounds, localized floods, prowling jaguars and a slow lapse into hallucinatory near-madness.  Australian director Greg McLean, usually more noted for his horror fare (WOLF CREEK – ROGUE – THE DARKNESS) has helmed this survivalist adventure film, much of which was shot here in Queensland, Australia.  The dependable Thomas Kretschmann plays the enigmatic but charismatic Karl, Australian actors Joel Jackson and Alex Russell take the roles of Marcus and Kevin respectively and the lead performance, that of the real life Yossi, is undertaken by Daniel Radcliffe.


McLean has handled the early scenes, that flesh out the differences in personalities, quite well.  Once realization begins to strike that Karl may not be the assured and reliable jungle expert he has painted himself to be, tempers begin to fray and psyches unravel. Marcus, a spiritual and gentle soul, begins to struggle physically and mentally and the alpha male Kevin views this with contempt. Yossi becomes the peacemaker but his distrust of Karl and knowledge that Marcus is becoming a liability inject an element of opportunism into his dealings.  It is at this point that the band decide to separate with two building a raft to travel downriver while the remaining pair continue overland through the growingly impenetrable terrain.


The real Ghinsburg was on hand during the shoot to provide authenticity in the narrative and guide Radcliffe through the disintegrating stages of his mindset during the ordeal. None of this film was shot on green screen and the terrain and location work presented some grueling challenges for both cast and crew.  Praise for the stunt work and cinematography is warranted.  


There are aspects that can be criticized here but what is beyond demur is the remarkable photography of Stefan Duscio that perfectly places us deep within the chaotic, threatening and forbidding world of hundreds of miles of wilderness that has no trace of human existence.  Panoramic overhead shots illustrate the enormous scale of the area and what must have seemed an impossible task for search parties.  The other winner here is Daniel Radcliffe’s performance.  Oh my but this lad has come a long way since he hung up Harry Potter’s Quidditch broom.  Determined to make his role fully believable, Radcliffe virtually starved himself during shooting and by film’s end his gaunt, sunken-eyed, rail-thin frame with protruding ribs and neck bones was skeletal and impossibly frail.  Another case of an actor suffering for his art.


He manages a rather good Israeli accent and succeeds on all levels in showing us the almost supernatural drive for survival that was a part of Yossi Ghinsberg.


Daniel’s (Ghinsberg’s) parents were Holocaust survivors so it may well run in the genes.










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