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The Emerald Forest
cast: Powers Boothe, Meg Foster, Charley Boorman, Dira Pass, and Rui Polonah

director: John Boorman

110 minutes (15) 1985
widescreen ratio 2.35:1
Momentum Take One DVD Region 2 retail

RATING: 7/10
reviewed by Steven Hampton
With marginally similar concerns to his earlier Zardoz, director John Boorman's mid-1980s' adventure is allegedly based on a true story and is altogether a rather less subtle effort than his SF opus.

Powers Boothe plays the American construction chief Bill Markham, who's overseeing the building of a dam project in the Amazon jungle, when his young son Tommy (William Rodriguez) is kidnapped and spirited away into the depths of the rainforest by a reclusive tribe known as the Invisible People. The natives are a primitive culture, living in close harmony with nature and able to blend into their 'paradise' of lush greenery.

The boy (missing from home for a decade) soon becomes part of the tribe. He is initiated into manhood by a rites-of-passage ordeal and, by the time that his father has finally located him, the white young man (a fine performance from the director's own son Charley) has been fully adopted by the tribe of Brazilian indians, to the consternation of his mother Jean (Meg Foster, famed for her startlingly beautiful eyes).

From the pivotal reunion scene, the movie shifts its emphasis to mysticism, with Markham's hallucinatory experience as an 'animal spirit' (we all have one, supposedly, and mine's probably a weasel), and later to straightforward Tarzan-style dramatics; as the tribe embark on a rescue mission to save their imprisoned women (from being sold into slavery) and a guerrilla attack on the dam that represents a threat to the Invisible People's home territory and philosophy of life.

Superbly photographed on location by French DoP, Philippe Rousselot (who also shot Boorman's autobiographical Hope And Glory, and more recently lensed Tim Burton's Big Fish), The Emerald Forest combines documentary realism with marvellously evoked fantasy (despite there being almost no overt supernatural or paranormal elements in the film!), and a stirring adventuresome narrative. It does have the weakness of an episodic structure, and sometimes the plot shifts are clumsily achieved. These are slight flaws however and may easily be overlooked in appreciation of such an engrossing movie.

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