Synopsis by Mark Deming
A man who leaves humanity behind to live with animals returns to society under unpleasant circumstances, but with valuable lessons about human and animal relationships. Anthony Hopkins stars as Ethan Powell, a noted anthropologist studying the behavior of mountain gorillas in Rwanda. The longer Powell follows the apes, the more he comes to admire their simple but peaceful society. He begins to spend most of his time with the apes until one day he ventures into the jungle and doesn't return. Powell throws in his lot with the gorillas and lives among them as primitive man once lived in the wild with animals. However, two years later, poachers kill several of the gorillas, and Powell flies into a murderous rage, killing two of the men who attacked his friends. Extradited to the United States, Powell is sent to a grim maximum-security prison in Florida, where he will be held while awaiting trail. A psychological evaluation must be performed on Powell, and the task falls to Theo Caulder (Cuba Gooding Jr.), an ambitious young psychiatrist who sees this as a case with the potential to make him famous. However, since Powell initially won't speak to anyone, getting through to him will be a challenge, and Powell's daughter Lyn (Maura Tierney) has little insight on the father she barely knew. As Caulder slowly builds a rapport with Powell, he comes to realize what Powell has learned from his experience with the gorillas -- and how much Powell can teach him about living with others. Loosely adapted from the novel Ishmael by Daniel Quinn, Instinct also features supporting performances from Donald Sutherland and George Dzundza.
anthropology, gorilla, jungle, psychiatry, killing, madness, poacher, prison