Instinct (1999) – Directed by Jon Turteltaub – ✭✭✭✩✩ (3/5)
Starring: Anthony Hopkins, Cuba Gooding Jr.
Recommended for those who enjoy: meaningful dialogue, psychological thrillers, sociological perspectives
I recently finished reading and reviewing Ishamel by Daniel Quinn, a philosophical story that seeks to answer deeper questions about humanity and our environment. Instinct tells the story of a missing anthropologist Ethan Powell (Hopkins), recently imprisoned for the murder of several wilderness rangers in Africa. Upon further discovery, it is uncovered that he has been living peacefully among a family of gorillas in the jungle. Through interviews conducted by psychologist Theo Caulder (Gooding Jr.), Powell begins to teach Theo about the true history and nature of mankind.
Using the metaphor of a prison, Instinct makes direct references to the book’s message. Powell refers to authorities as Takers, a term that is used to describe “civilized” people who emerged about 10,000 years ago that have developed into today’s global societies. With each encounter with other inmates and guards, Powell expresses the conflicting duality of primitive and modern humanity, its history, and its effects. Similarly to the 1975 classic, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest , Instinct explores the flaws that emerge from systems of power and authority from subordination.
Although the film’s meaning was important, I wasn’t a big fan of the story’s pacing and cast. Ishmael is a complex book, perhaps too complex to have had a film made about it. Important dialogue seemed rushed, and certain philosophical points were brushed under the rug. Anthony Hopkins gave a great performance, successfully blending the intellectual with the psychotic. However, I wasn’t a fan of Gooding’s acting for this role. His reactions were bland and unbelievable, barely able to balance Hopkins’ intensity. But the cinematography was decent, and although the wildlife scenes were staged, the gorillas were cute as hell.
Although its not a five-star film, I do recommend giving it a try or at least reading Ishmael. Both provide narratives that support reflective thinking about our behaviors and systems, and the future of our species. This movie is a great example of the return of primitivism, community, and individualism vs. the collective.