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Laramie Movie Scope: Instinct

A movie lost in the jungle

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by Robert Roten, Film Critic
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June 9, 1999 -- "Instinct" is a well-meaning film that gets lost on its way out of the jungle.

The basic concept of "Instinct" is simple. It is the romantic notion of the noble savage and the noble beast. The corollaries of that idea are that nature is somehow perfect and that civilization is not only the enemy of nature but the corruptor of the human spirit as well. These are old, very well-worn and overused themes in Hollywood.

The story has academy award-winning actor Anthony Hopkins as Ethan Powell, a scientist who, Jane Goodall-like, has lived among gorillas for years. One day he kills two men in the jungle and is arrested for murder by the local authorities. He is extradited to the U.S. and must be evaluated by a psychiatrist to determine if he can stand trial.

Psychiatrist Theo Caulder (Oscar-winner Cuba Gooding Jr. "Jerry McGuire") jumps at the chance to handled the case. He figures it will be good for his career and he also thinks he can write a book about Powell's unusual psychosis. Caulder is the corrupted civilized man, while Powell is the noble savage. Caulder thinks he is in control of the situation, but in an intense scene, Powell shows that he is really in charge. He becomes the teacher and Caulder, the student.

There's a whole sub-plot, which is more or less a waste of time, involving prison brutality and prison guards who are playing their own control games. The main drama centers around Powell and whether or not he will open up and reveal why he killed the guards. When his explanation finally arrives, it is very anticlimactic. There are no surprises.

The cinematography, by Philippe Rousselot, is especially good in the jungle scenes. The interaction between the gorillas and Powell is very convincingly portrayed. The after effect of the film, however, is like the proverbial Chinese dinner. It seems filling at the time, but soon you feel empty. Gooding and Hopkins are both wonderful actors and they do their best to keep this clichéd story going, but they just can't save the project. It rates a D.

Click here for links to places to buy this movie in video and/or DVD format, the soundtrack, books, even used videos, games and lots of other stuff. I suggest you shop at least two of these places before buying anything. Prices seem to vary continuously. For more information on this film, click on this link to The Internet Movie Database. Type in the name of the movie in the search box and press enter. You will be able to find background information on the film, the actors, and links to much more information.

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Copyright © 1999 Robert Roten. All rights reserved.
Reproduced with the permission of the copyright holder.
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Click here for links to places to buy this movie in video and/or DVD format, the soundtrack, books, even used videos, games and lots of other stuff. I suggest you shop at least two of these places before buying anything. Prices seem to vary continuously. For more information on this film, click on this link to The Internet Movie Database. Type in the name of the movie in the search box and press enter. You will be able to find background information on the film, the actors, and links to much more information.