Sunday, May 26, 2013


Director: Frank Marshall
Year 1995

Congo is a ridiculously enjoyable, yet highly overlooked, gem, which features an outstanding cast and a slew of impressive practical and digital effects. The film basks in its adventurous nature while never forgetting to inject an abundance of fun and wonder into the mix, and the combination of all of its elements makes for one hell of an enjoyable ride. Spirited in nature and whimsically daring, Congo whisks us away to a world filled with savage jungles, ancient temples and killer apes, all in the name of adventure and fun. Sign me up!

The film follows a motley group of scientists and adventurers, as they set off on an expedition to the African Congo for various personal reasons. Dr. Peter Elliot is there because he wants to set his gorilla Amy out into the wild to communicate with other apes, in hopes that he might learn something about their way of life. Dr. Karen Ross, on the other hand, is in search of her company's missing expedition, namely her ex-fiance who is reportedly in grave danger. Lastly there is Herkermer Homolka, a Romanian entrepreneur who is in search of the lost city of Zinj, an ancient mine that is said to contain riches beyond imagination. Set against the elements of the jungle and plagued by its many dangers, the team of adventurers soon come to find that there are some things that are not supposed to be found, and some places that should never be entered. Congo!

If there's one thing to say about Congo, it is that it is jam-packed with great characters. Dylan Walsh takes on the central role of Dr. Peter Elliot, the primatologist who has been researching the effects of sign language on primates, through the use of a mechanism that allows the animals to vocally communicate. Walsh is absolutely genuine in this role, giving a simplistic, yet heartfelt, performance that really pulls on the heart strings as well as engages you on all that is going on within the film. Coming on board the production as a frankly unknown actor, gave great credence to his authenticity as an animal researcher, and combined with his exceptional acting ability, he was able to really knock this one out of the park. Essentially paired with him is actress Laura Linney as Dr. Karen Ross, the no nonsense scientist who can dish it out as well as take it. Compelled to find her missing co-workers, Linney dispenses a great deal of courage into her character making you really root for her, even though at times she can be quite rigid and cold. Like Dylan Walsh, Linney wasn't a big name star, but she really took on the role and made it her own, showcasing a great deal of charm and sass as the determined Karen Ross.

Also along for the expedition is Ernie Hudson, who takes on the role of Captain Munro Kelly, the jungle guide. Hudson is absolutely astounding as the bombastic great white hunter, who just so happens to be black, and he is given countless moments in the film to really show his stuff. Witty, courageous, and sharp tongued, Hudson brings a special spark to the movie, and his presence only adds to the enjoyability of the movie. The last of the heavy hitters is Tim Curry as Herkermer Homolka, the opportunistic treasure seeker who has all his life dreamed of finding the lost city of Zinj. Curry, as always, is a hoot, as he steals every scene he is in with his over the top facial expressions and his delightfully entertaining persona. The man is a living legend in my opinion, and though Congo is not one of his best performances, it still is chock full of outstanding moments that will simply put a smile on your face. All in all, the cast is exceptional and it is one of the reasons that this film is so much damn fun to watch. Did I also mention that there is a small part played by the living legend Bruce Campbell? What's there not to like?

Aside from the extraordinary cast, this movie has a great deal of other aspects that remarkably make it a thing of entertaining beauty. First and foremost, the production is especially balanced in the effects department. The collaboration of practical and digital effects are seamless, and they both meld quite well together to help immerse the audience into the world that Congo is bringing to the screen. The elements that are brought together to bring Amy the gorilla to life are impressive, and the end result is really jaw dropping, as both performance and mechanized facial expressions produce movie magic which makes the unbelievable, believable. You'll find yourself caring about this little furball as if she was a living breathing creature, and in that aspect I'd say the filmmakers and effects wizards did their job perfectly.

The same can be said for the more ferocious creatures of the film in the form of the gray killer apes. These bad boys are a menace and blood-thirsty to boot, and the same practical approach of performance melded robotics are used to these creations, and with great results. They are frighteningly grotesque and they make for outstanding opposition to our unsuspecting heroes. Their initial meeting with these mythical beasts is one of the most potent moments of the film, and a great deal of the credit should go to the outstanding creature design of the gray killer apes. Of course it is the locations and presence of the jungle locales that really aid in bringing these moments, and this film in general, all together. From the majestic volcanic mountainside, to the ravaging river rapids, to the thick lush rainforests, this production allows itself to get immersed in its jungle settings making for an adventurous outing that is truly entertaining and above all, fun.

Congo is without a doubt one of the most remarkably underrated films to have ever come out during the mid 90's. Its combination of jungle exploration coupled with its stupendous cast and wild special effects, should have assured it a place in cinema lover's hearts, but instead it was overlooked and mysteriously panned on its initial release. Maybe it was the film's lack of super stars which couldn't capture the attention of a dedicated following, but in my opinion, this never came into question when viewing it for myself. All the actors involved did a tremendous job in bringing this behemoth to life and the adventurous nature of the film is impossible to ignore and write off. The sympathetic performance of Dylan Walsh, the tense portrayal of Laura Linney, the charismatic presence of Ernie Hudson, and the devilish nature of Tim Curry, is a match made in cinema heaven and I have always appreciated the strange concoction that is Congo's cast of characters.

Added onto that great structure is a film production that knows how to use effects and understands the careful balance of applying it so that it doesn't overwhelm the story and take you out of the picture. The creation of Amy the gorilla is a beautiful combination of film-making mechanisms that aid in bringing that sense of reality and authenticity to the forefront, all while presenting some overtly out of this world concepts, such as a talking ape. This same application can be seen in the film's other special effects as miniatures and digital creations form in bringing some of the most lively moments of the film to life. Possibly ahead of its time, and definitely missed by a mass audience, Congo is a movie that generates a great deal of atmospheric fun. You've got a group of adventurers, scientists, and treasure hunters, on a crash course to an ancient city crawling with killer apes. How can this not be entertaining? If you're in the mood for an adventure that is truly fun and remarkably enjoyable, then give this one a go. Congo is.....

Bruce!!!! NOOOOOOOO!!!!!!

Over Oppressive Work-Place Staring Contest! GO!

Oh Amy... You're such a little sweet-heart.

It's not a bad question Burt.

Oh Tim Curry..... You silly beautiful bastard you.

This ape really knows how to party first class.

Double your fun!

I get it man! You really liked Ghostbusters! Can we move on with our lives now?

Pull my monkey finger you freaky lizard.

Ernie Hudson is cool as shit... that is all.

Who wants to play king of the mountain?

Oh shit! There goes the neighborhood.

Where the shit are we?

Good idea bringing the emergency Rave equipment and not more guns... Ass!

Damn you Amy and your cuteness! Damn it to HELL!

A god among men.

What you talking about Apey?

Anyone order roast Ape?

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