Instinct 1999 Movie Anthony Hopkins as Ethan Powell after his arrest in Uganda scene

Instinct [1999]

When you see that Anthony Hopkins is in some movie then you know that that movie is going to be good (did someone say Slipstream?). And when you see that the supporting cast that consists of Cuba Gooding Jr. and Donald Sutherland, you are already ready for Instinct. Loosely based on a novel Ishmael written by Daniel Quinn, this is a brilliant slow-burner that leaves you enough time to ponder about the questions it raises. The most prominent one is about our way of life, drawing parallels between life in the urban environment and in the wild. Driven by powerful performances, it’s the best movie to date directed by Jon Turteltaub.

Ethan Powell traveled to Africa to study gorillas, and in that period he got way to close to them. Shedding all of humanity’s bonds and ties, he lived a different life. Theo Caulder is a young psychiatrist that meets with Ethan in prison and tries to shed some light on events that led him to his imprisonment.

This is above all a character study, so it’s no wonder that pacing is a bit wobbly, especially at the beginning, so just give it time. A very intelligent and interesting movie that will get you thinking about your own life, Instinct is also delightfully subversive. Blurring lines between humans and gorillas, it asked too many questions for the gen pop, so it was a box office bomb. Although I could not imagine how they manage to spend 80 million dollars while making this movie. Prison is filled with colorful and likable characters, that really enriched the movie. And on top of that, we have Mr. Hopkins there, a combination that worked so well. Well, at least for us, the viewers.

At this point, we should discuss obvious influences: One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest and Gorillas in the Mist, but I think that Instinct managed to fuse together these two concepts relatively well. Powered by strong performances and engaging atmosphere, it is a bit formulaic, but any movie that questions consumerism, current power relations, and the way we live is something definitely worth watching. If you’re willing to continue in somewhat unorthodox fashion I recommend you check out Werner Herzog’s Fitzcarraldo, a sort of the antithesis of Instinct, but truly a crazy story based on true events. And if you’re looking for something a bit more commercial checkout Harrison Ford in The Mosquito Coast.

Director: Jon Turteltaub

Cast: Anthony Hopkins, Cuba Gooding Jr., Donald Sutherland, George Dzundza, John Ashton

Fun Facts: Sean Connery was originally offered the role of Ethan Powell.


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