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Soundtrack review: Jungle (Johnny Klimek – 2017)

Film scores

Soundtrack review: Jungle (Johnny Klimek – 2017)

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“Jungle” is a 2017 Australian biographical survival drama film directed by Greg McLean and written by Justin Monjo. The film stars Daniel Radcliffe, Alex Russell, Thomas Kretschmann, Yasmin Kassim, Joel Jackson and Jacek Koman. In the pursuit of self-discovery and authentic experiences, the Israeli backpacker, Yossi Ghinsberg, meets a cryptic Austrian geologist in La Paz, Bolivia, and captivated by his engrossing stories of lost tribes, uncharted adventures and even gold, decides to follow him, circa 1981. Without delay and accompanied by the good friends, Kevin, an American photographer, and Marcus, a Swiss teacher, they join an expedition led by their seasoned trail-leader, deep into the emerald and impenetrable Amazonian rainforest. However, as the endless and inhospitable jungle separates the inexperienced team, before long, Yossi will find himself stranded in the depths of a nightmarish environment crawling with formidable and tireless adversaries. How can one escape this green maze? I like survival dramas and I also like Radcliffe’s continuous attempts to break away from Harry Potter. Johnny Klimek wrote the score.

The score opens with “Jungle intro” and it’s the kind of mellow light guitar based cue that I often find synonymous with self discovery journeys. There is a subtle Latin element in the way the guitar is played and a buildup at the end of the cue that marks the beginning of the adventure. I am a bit surprised by the light and even feel good first few cues from this score as I was expecting adventure and danger but maybe they will come later. For now I am enjoying the guitar musings because they make me think of a day spent outdoors.

The first cloud appears in “Truly free” and it’s the first cue when I really connect with this score; the guitar suddenly plays a darker mood that reminds me of Gustavo Santaolalla’s music. This could be the turning point of the score as the next cue “Why are you here?” is chilling with a determined percussion motif that makes all that sun and feel good vibe go away; only for a moment though as “Adventuring” is as sweet of a road trip movie cue as you can find. The music alternates as I guess it tries to mimic the experiences of the main character. This variety is part of what usually makes a Klimek score so entertaining as I can also find an ambient gem like “I can’t keep up”, totally different from the rest.

The music of “Jungle” makes me feel that this is one man’s journey, or at least the story of a very small group; the music is never heavy as if everything is experienced on a small, personal scale. The subtle cello motifs that present doubt, the danger in the percussion and the hope in the guitar are all elements on the same spectrum. I like the journey of listening to this score and discovering its nuances like the superb “Splitting up” which is one of those South American influenced guitar pieces you will remember; it’s not “Iguazu” but it comes pretty close.

No matter where I turn though this score is charming; there’s an indescribable good feeling about it even in the darker moments, a brilliance in the simplicity of the music and an easiness to connect with it. I believe this score when the moments are peaceful and reflective, I believe it when it’s fun and I believe it when it’s dangerous or dramatic. The guitar work is enjoyable from beginning to end and the occasional orchestral inserts work very well. Another winner for Johnny Klimek.

Cue rating: 89 / 100

Total minutes of excellence: 34 / 64

Album excellence: 53%

Highlights:
Truly Free
Falling Behind
Splitting Up
Rapid Fun
Peaceful Paddling
Calling Kevin
Getting Help
Jungle Walk
Curiplaya
Follow The River
Kevin Saved
I Give Up
Kina
I Can’t Do This Alone
Stars
Kevin Finds Yossi

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Mihnea Manduteanu

I have been listening to film music for 25 years and writing about it since 2014. I've written over 1000 reviews and I can't imagine myself doing anything else. I am also a member of IFMCA (International Film Music Critics Association).

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