David R. Cohen is the former Associate Editor of the Atlanta Jewish Times. He is originally from Marietta, GA and studied Journalism at the University of Tennessee.
The story of Israeli backpacker Yossi Ghinsberg, lost in the Amazon jungle for three weeks in 1981, seems too fantastical to be true at first viewing. But it all actually happened.
The 2017 film “Jungle,” which stars Daniel Radcliffe (forever known as Harry Potter), details the real-life struggles of 21-year-old Ghinsberg, who in search of adventure is convinced by a mysterious Austrian guide named Karl to search for a lost Indian tribe deep in the Bolivian rain forest. Ghinsberg and two friends go into the jungle, but the adventure of a lifetime turns into a nightmare when Ghinsberg is separated from the group and must survive on his own without a knife or any kind of survival training.
The real Ghinsberg survived 20 days lost in the jungle by foraging for berries and fruits and finding eggs in nests. He almost drowned after an extended rainfall. Another time, he woke up covered in leaches.
With eye catching set pieces, solid acting and some gruesome scenes, “Jungle” is a thrilling movie. Highlights include the acting of Thomas Kretschmann as the mysterious guide Karl and a scene in which Radcliffe’s Ghinsberg pulls a parasitic worm out of his forehead with only a pen knife.
Radcliffe, who is Jewish, convincingly portrays an ambitious but gullible Israeli adventurer who is the son of Holocaust survivors. Several flashbacks in the movie reveal Ghinsberg’s Jewish upbringing in Israel and his motivations for exploring the rain forest.
Another strange bit of trivia: Outside this film, Kretschmann is known for his portrayals of German military officers in World War II films.
“Jungle” is the kind of film that has you yelling at the screen for the first 20 minutes, trying to get the main character not to go into the jungle. But he goes in anyway, resulting in a satisfying adventure/survival film.