Gorillas in the Mist (1988)

Genres - Drama  |   Sub-Genres - Biopic [feature], Adventure Drama, Jungle Film  |   Release Date - Sep 23, 1988 (USA)  |   Run Time - 150 min.  |   Countries - United States   |   MPAA Rating - PG13
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Review by Michael Costello

Michael Apted's film on primatologist Dian Fossey is beautifully made and carefully researched but ultimately disappointing in its inability to understand its protagonist. Fossey (Sigourney Weaver), a physical therapist who transformed herself into a naturalist after spending years with her beloved gorillas, was an extraordinary, sometimes eccentric woman, who disclosed little of her inner life in any of her writings. The result is essentially a highly animated documentary, in which Fossey's dedication to the study and preservation of these primates is dutifully recounted. This is not to minimize the value of this aspect of the film, which is observed in fascinating detail by Apted, who has made the interface between the live animals and the special effects work absolutely seamless. Presumably in an effort to make the woman easier to relate to, the filmmakers have thrown in a glimpse of her short-lived romance with a National Geographic photographer (Bryan Brown), but it adds nothing to our understanding of her. Her opacity becomes especially frustrating in the film's third act, when a campaign against poachers drives her to extremes of behavior which would imply an emotional breakdown. Despite the limitations of the script, the statuesque Weaver is ideally cast as the iron-willed woman, and seems to have an instinctive rapport with the wildlife. The lush cinematography makes the jungles of Rwanda look like paradise.