After the son of engineer Bill Markham is abducted by an aboriginal tribe on the edge of the rain forest, the engineer spends the next 10 years searching for him.
This 1985 action/adventure film is fairly heavy handed and tends to shy away from the ultra violence of action movies of the 80s that starred the Stallones, the Schwarzeneggers, or the Lundgrens at the height of their careers. Instead, this is more of an episodic film, based on a true story that is more melodramatic in nature with elaborate character development and a big glaring message about industry vs nature. Director John Boorman ('Deliverance', 'Hope and Glory', 'The Exorcist II') chose to film 'The Emerald Forest' on location in the Amazon rainforest, which gives us a beautiful glimpse at the native people, the wildlife, and its surroundings. This is one of Boorman's more direct stories, and the result is a satisfying look at what parents would do for their children.
The first segment of 'The Emerald Forest' has us meeting a chief engineer named Bill (Powers Boothe), who is in the Amazon rainforest with his wife Jean (Meg Foster) and their two very young children. Bill is in charge of overseeing the construction of a giant dam that will restrict the flow of water to parts of the rainforest, which will flatten the land for future industrial and commercial buildings to be constructed. Boorman clearly shows which side he is on as he delicately shows us the beauty and wonder of the trees and animals, whereas the big bad city people are using tractors and fire to destroy the beautiful land.
Bill and Jean's young son is stolen by an indigenous tribe located in the heart of the forest known as 'The Invisible People', which causes despair for the family. We cut to ten years later where Bill and Jean are still living in Brazil where the dam is almost fully built. They are still trying to repair their broken lives without their son through work and charity. Bill walks with a journalist through the forest and comes across his now grown boy (Charley Boorman) after ten years. His son is a contributing member of this new tribe and about to go through some big rituals into full fledged manhood. Bill soon realizes that the boy who was once his son, now belongs to this primitive tribe.
The film switches gears and puts this reconnection on the back burner and focuses on another tribe, which is a much more violent people with more advanced weapons than the usual spears and rocks, known as the 'Fierce People', who are about to wage war on the peaceful 'Invisible People'. Meanwhile, the dam construction is nearing completion and the entire group of tribes have to keep moving further into the forest to avoid being killed or taken by authorities. And now Bill must make a big decision. Does he help his lost son and his tribe stand up and fight the bad guys and stop the dam, or does he move on, keeping his life's work in tact. It's a pretty powerful story.
But Boorman doesn't focus very much on the reconnection or kidnapping of Bill's son, which in my opinion was a very vital and integral part of the story. Not much time is given to the initial kidnapping and quickly fast forwards ten years into the future. And when the reconnection happens between father and son, it should have been a bigger moment, but Boorman focuses on the nature vs industry aspect right away with the construction of the dam and the rival tribes. Then, the last climactic few scenes of the film make way for a straight up revenge flick.
Both Boothe and Foster turn in great performances as parents who are coping with the loss of one of their kids. The anger and depression truly show in their faces and body language throughout. 'The Emerald Forest' is a solid entry in the 80s action adventure category that stands on its own with its originality, despite the lack of hardcore action.
'The Emerald Forest' comes with a great 1080p HD transfer presented in 2.35:1 aspect ratio. This 30-year old film still looks amazing and Kino Lober has done a fine job upgrading the video quality here. This does not look to have been put through the proverbial digital carwash as it retains that natural filmic look. There is a nice layer of grain throughout, however at times, the grain fluctuates from from heavy to light, but it's a rare case. Detail is quite sharp, particularly during closeups, which reveal nice textures such as individual hairs, makeup blemishes, and intricate details of the jungle.
Wider shots look great here as well, but come across just a tiny bit softer. Colors look amazing and seem to pop of screen with beautiful greens, blues, and browns. Every color is well saturated and looks organic. Skin tones are always natural looking and the black levels are deep and inky for the most part. There is some minor wear and tear on the print still with a few scratches and debris floating about, but other than that, there are no issues to speak of, leaving this 30-year old movie with top marks in regards to its video presentation.
This release comes with a lossless DTS-HD 2.0 sound mix. For the most part, this audio track has the goods, but it has some problems. The 2.0 stereo sound keeps the range from truly immersing us in the terror and drama set in this beautiful locale. But it's not all bad. Sound effects are deep and robust, but don't sound wholly authentic at times. The ambient noises though sound a better, whether it be rain, the wild life, or people chattering in the distance.
Dialogue is clear and easy to follow as well, however there are some instances where some of the sound effects overpower the dialogue. Starting at the 30 minute mark, there is a light popping sound that stays around for a few minutes. And no, it's not sounds from a crackling fire or drums, it's in fact an annoying popping sound. Luckily, it only sticks around for a little bit, but it shouldn't be there. Other than that unfortunate business, the sound is is pretty good.
Theatrical Trailer (HD, 2 Mins.) - Trailer for the film.
'The Emerald Forest' is a great film that has been mostly forgotten since the mid 80s. It's shot extremely well and shows the actual Amazon rainforest and all its beauty nicely. The acting is solid from everyone involved. The video presentation is top notch here, but the audio portion has some issues, but is passable. Unfortunately, there are no extras other than a trailer for the film here. It would have been nice to have some new interviews or behind the scenes features here, or at least a commentary track. That being said, this film is still good enough to add to your collection. So if the price is right on this one, it's recommended.