Nearly two years after having gone amiss in Africa, renowned anthropologist Dr. Ethan Powell is caught committing a crime and subsequently imprisoned in a Florida mental institution, where aspiring psychiatrist Dr. Theo Calder takes over his important case. Dr. Powell, who has been with a group of gorillas during all that time, is not talking at all and seems to be living in a dreamworld. Very slowly, Dr. Calder manages to reach Ethan Powell and starts finding out why Ethan killed two of the poachers. Yet Theo's case is not just about why the murders have happened, but also about how Dr. Powell became the being he is in the first place. With Ethan's silence broken, Theo is introduced into a world beyond common human comprehension: The true nature of being. He learns that mankind's control of everything is a mere illusion and that the true values of existence can't be found so easily. Ethan changes Theo's view of things forever. Written by
Julian Reischl <firstname.lastname@example.org>
A very, very good film, with great script, acting, and emotional depth.
A friend and I saw a sneak preview of INSTINCT last night. The film stars Anthony Hopkins and Cuba Gooding Jr. and looked like a thriller about an anthropologist who went to Africa and wound up living with gorillas instead of just studying them. It was much more.
Hopkins' character, Dr. Ethan Powell, is accused of the murders of several Africans. Having been held in a Rwandan prison for a year, he's then extradited to the U.S. and put in a lovely prison in the insane department. Donald Sutherland (looking mighty fine!) is a noted professor of psychiatry at a nearby University, and Gooding is his pet resident, Dr. Theo Calder. When Sutherland's department is asked by the feds to do a psych evaluation, Gooding as Calder researches the case and begs to be allowed to do the work. Calder has been shown at this point to be a brilliant, ambitious resident with a sterling career ahead, and so Sutherland gives him the chance.
What develops from there is a wonderfully written, exquisitely acted story, interweaving the sessions with Powell and Calder with the life of the prison and its insane inmates. Further woven into the fabric is the story of what happened to Powell in Africa. In the African scenes, Stan Winston's work on the apes is incredibly realistic and never cartoonish. Danny Elfman's score (I don't always like Elfman, but did enjoy the Batman score) is also a beautiful accompaniment to these scenes, though a little heavy in other parts of the film.
It's hard to explain the refreshingly intelligent and moving and thoughtful script of this film. Issues such as what is really civilized behavior, the pack as family mentality, and humanity vs. inhumanity are explored with depth but never with a heavy hand. The performances of Hopkins and Gooding are exceptional. Gooding did a great job with the other film I'd seen him in, JERRY MAGUIRE, but the depths of emotion and the layered aspects of his performance in INSTINCT are incredible.
My friend said after we'd left the theater last night that this came very close to being a Great Film. And she's right. It had a great script and brilliant performances by all, fully realized characters (even the secondary ones), good plot. Where it falls a little, I think, is in the direction. Jon Turteltaub is a competent director who has done films I've enjoyed, such as WHILE YOU WERE SLEEPING and PHENOMENON. But in this case, with everything it had going for it, Turteltaub didn't hold the strings tight. The pacing is off in a few places, and a whiff of a subplot involving Gooding's character in a romance with Maura Tierney as Hopkins' daughter fails because you can feel it waffling. Should we leave this subplot in or pull it out? Since they couldn't decide, it leans both ways from scene to scene. This speaks to me of weakness in the director.
But INSTINCT is a very, very good film. Highly recommended. And those of you who are prone to weep, bring your hankies.
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