The Jungle Book (2016) – Film Review

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Director: Jon Favreau
Voice Cast: Neel Sethi, Bill Murray, Ben Kingsley
Certificate: PG

by Anel Blazevic

Jon Favreau, best-known for the Iron Man franchise reboots Rudyard Kipling’s much-loved short stories animal book. The story is still best-known as Disney’s iconic cartoon animation movie from 1967, referenced in a trio of musical moments here. And wow, what an achievement this film is.

Taking blue/green screen animation to new levels of jaw-dropping realism, the film follows Mowgli. The man-cub is played by the film’s single human actor, 12-year-old Neel Seethi. He grows up with – and is hunted by – the animals of the Indian jungle. In fact, so realistic are the animals, you’re sometimes left wondering if it’s the human that’s animated and the animals that are real.

The detail is astonishing – CGI as art-form, as creative force, as visual experience. It is not, for once, some graphic designer’s fill-in job. Heck, so immersive is the whole you’re really not taken aback by the magic realism concept of talking animals. An often clumsy device that even Life of Pi, the last great animal/CGI film, did everything to avoid.

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“You will fall in love with the story”

The Jungle Book story is world famous. Mowgli, brought up by wolves, watched over by the elegant and dignified panther Bagheera (voiced by Sir Ben Kingsley) and befriended by the elephant Baloo (voiced by Bill Murray) – but always threatened by the less savoury elements of the jungle, the snake Kaa and the tiger, Shere Khan – here terrifyingly malevolent and brilliantly voiced by Idris Elba.

It is remarkable how you fall in love with the story, how you root for the lone and vulnerable child, how you live through his trials, his joys and his coming-of-age. The levity is brief, the action thoughtful, the pacing is right.

The Jungle Book is a cinematic achievement like no other.


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