Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Frank Marshall|
|Produced by||Kathleen Kennedy
|Screenplay by||John Patrick Shanley|
by Michael Crichton
|Music by||Jerry Goldsmith|
|Edited by||Anne V. Coates|
|The Kennedy/Marshall Company|
|Distributed by||Paramount Pictures|
|Release date(s)||June 9, 1995|
|Running time||109 minutes|
Congo is a 1995 action adventure film loosely based on Michael Crichton's novel of the same name. It was directed by Frank Marshall (a frequent collaborator of Steven Spielberg, who directed another film based on Crichton's work, Jurassic Park) and stars Laura Linney, Dylan Walsh, Ernie Hudson, Tim Curry, Grant Heslov, and Joe Don Baker. The film was released on June 9, 1995 by Paramount Pictures.
Charles Travis (Bruce Campbell) and Karen Ross (Laura Linney) are testing a communications laser in a remote part of the Congo near a dormant volcano when Charles' friend Jeffrey (Taylor Nichols) discovers an ancient lost city's ruins. When Jeffrey and Charles go to explore it, they are both mysteriously killed. While Karen waits at headquarters, she activates a video feed and sees a destroyed camp with several dead bodies. The camera is then suddenly knocked over, ending the transmission. TraviCom's CEO and Charles' father R.B. Travis (Joe Don Baker) reveals they were really exploring the Congo to find a rare blue diamond that's only found at the volcanic site.
Dr. Peter Elliott (Dylan Walsh), a primatologist at the University of California, Berkeley, and his assistant Richard (Grant Heslov) teach human communication to primates using a gorilla named Amy (voiced by Shayna Fox). With a special backpack and glove, her sign language is translated to a digitized voice. Despite the success, Peter is concerned that Amy is having nightmares and psychological problems. These have been partly quelled by Amy's painted pictures of trees and the Eye of Providence. Peter theorizes that she's painting a jungle and decides to return her to Africa, but the university is reluctant to fund the expedition. Peter is approached by Romanian philanthropist, Herkermer Homolka (Tim Curry), who offers to fund the expedition. Karen, hoping to find Charles, joins Peter and provides additional funding.
In Africa, the group meets their expert guide Captain Munro Kelly (Ernie Hudson) but they are captured by the local authorities and militia leader named Captain Wanta (Delroy Lindo) who grants them passage for a sizable bribe. As the group boards another plane, Munro reveals that Homolka has led previous safaris in search of the "Lost City of Zinj", with disastrous results. The group must parachute into the jungle after their plane is shot down by Zairean soldiers. They make camp and Karen sets up equipment to contact TraviCom via satellite but Amy inadvertently knocks over the equipment destroying it, leading Travis to conclude that this expedition met a similar fate to the first. He then sends another expedition.
The tribe's members lead the team to Bob Driscoll (John Hawkes), a member of the original expedition. He's in a catatonic state and the tribe performs a ritual to summon his spirit back to his body. Once revived, Bob sees Amy and begins screaming, before coughing up blood and dying. Perplexed, the group heads deeper into the jungle by boat. Munro presses Homolka about his obsession with the lost city, and he reveals that as a young man he found a book that contained a drawing of Zinj where there had been a vast diamond mine. The drawing featured an open eye, the same eye that Amy has been painting. Homolka comes to the conclusion that Amy has seen Zinj and can lead the group there. Before entering the mountain range the group sees the plane from the third expedition take anti-aircraft fire from the Zaire Air Force and watch it burn up and crash.
Arriving at the empty camp site, the group finally discovers Zinj. When they search the city, they find a specific hieroglyph and a hysterical Richard runs into the city with his head covered in blood. He collapses dead and a killer grey gorilla comes from the shadows and attacks the group, but is killed by gunshots. Killer Grey Gorillas then attack the perimeter after dark, but are driven off by automated sentry guns set up by Karen. Homolka translates the hieroglyph as: "We are watching you."
The group enters the ruins, where they find hieroglyph pictures of people teaching the killer grey gorillas to guard the mines and kill anyone trying to steal the diamonds. It is theorized that the killer grey gorillas turned on their masters, and then taught their offspring to defend the area, even from other gorillas. Soon afterwards, the remaining members of the group find Homolka at the entrance of the mine picking up handfuls of large diamonds, but are suddenly ambushed by the killer grey gorillas, who live in the mine; Homolka is killed. In the mine, Karen and Peter find Charles's body, a large blue diamond in his hands. As the killer grey gorillas move to attack Peter, Amy fiercely protects him, giving Karen time to load the blue diamond into her laser, which she uses as a weapon against the gorillas. The volcano then suddenly erupts, collapsing the mine into molten lava. Peter, Karen, Munro, and Amy escape as the killer grey gorillas are killed by the lava.
Karen contacts Travis and informs him about the blue diamond, but that Charles is dead. When she realizes that Travis only cares about the diamond, she programs the laser to target TraviCom's satellite, destroying it. Having found the crashed cargo plane from the third expedition with a hot air balloon, Karen has Munro set it up. Peter says goodbye to Amy as she joins a group of mountain gorillas. Peter, Karen, and Munro set off in the balloon and Karen has Peter throw away the only diamond she saved from the mine.
- Laura Linney as Dr. Karen Ross, an electronics expert for TraviCom, and a former CIA operative, who hopes to find her ex-fiancé lost in a previous expedition to the Congo.
- Dylan Walsh as Dr. Peter Elliott, a primatologist of Berkeley, California who wants to return his gorilla, Amy, to her birthplace in the Congo's Virunga region.
- Ernie Hudson as Captain Munro Kelly, the "Great White Hunter" and mercenary who leads the group.
- Lorene Noh, Misty Rosas, and the voice of Shayna Fox as Amy, a female mountain gorilla, born in the Virunga region, who is studied by Peter in the United States. She likes to draw scenes from her dreams, in which the Lost City of Zinj often appears.
- Tim Curry as Herkermer Homolka, a supposedly-rich Romanian man who offers to finance the expedition. He poses as a philanthropist, but it's soon revealed that he isn't at all wealthy and his real aim is to find the mythical Lost City of Zinj, where he lost another expedition some years before.
- Grant Heslov as Richard, Peter's research assistant.
- Joe Don Baker as R.B. Travis, TraviCom's CEO, Charles' father and Karen's boss. He wants to find the diamond mines to finance and expand his satellite technologies.
- Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje as Kahega, Munro's deputy and leader of the expedition's African porters.
- Bruce Campbell as Charles "Charlie" Travis, Karen's ex-fiance and R.B.'s son.
- Taylor Nichols as Jeffrey Weems, Charlie's friend who was in the previous expedition with Charlie.
- Joe Pantoliano as Eddie Ventro, an American living in Central Africa who hires Munro, and organizes the group's transportation and materials.
- Delroy Lindo as Captain Wanta, a corrupt African military officer who offers safe passage through his country (and a few humorous words) for a price.
- Stuart Pankin as Boyd
- Frank Welker provided the vocal effects for gorillas.
Congo opened with a weekend total of $24,642,539, eventually going on to gross $152,022,101 worldwide ($81,022,101 domestic) theatrically versus a $50,000,000 budget.
Though the film was a box-office hit, the critical reaction was negative: Rotten Tomatoes retrospectively collected 43 reviews to give the film a rating of 21%. A significant cause of disappointment among the novel's fans was that the "gorillas" were obviously costumed humans and puppets with noticeable fur mask gaps on the necks, whereas the 1993 film Jurassic Park had familiarized audiences with CGI dinosaurs. CGI was originally planned for the gray gorillas, but the technology hadn't yet been developed to the point where realistic hair could be created. While smooth-skinned dinosaurs were possible, hairy apes would have looked inappropriately cartoonish. Animatronics, masks, and puppetry had therefore to be used, created by Stan Winston.
The film had some positive reviews: Roger Ebert of Chicago Sun-Times gave it 3 out of 4 stars, and called the film a splendid example of a genre no longer much in fashion, the jungle adventure story.
Differences from the novel
A major plot point in the novel is the American expedition competing with a German-Japanese consortium to reach Zinj. This rivalry is omitted from the film, as is the consortium altogether.
In the novel, Munro Kelly is a mixed-race Scotsman, described as the son of a Scottish noble adventurer and his "handsome Indian housemaid." In the film, he is a British man of African descent.
Awards and nominations
|Golden Raspberry Award||Worst New Star||Amy the Talking Gorilla||Nominated|
|Worst Supporting Actress||Nominated|
|Worst Supporting Actor||Tim Curry||Nominated|
|Worst Original Song||Jerry Goldsmith "(Feel) the Spirit of Africa"||Nominated|
|Worst Screenplay||John Patrick Shanley||Nominated|
|Worst Picture||Kathleen Kennedy||Nominated|
|Worst Director||Frank Marshall||Nominated|
|Saturn Award||Best Science Fiction Film||Kathleen Kennedy||Nominated|
|Best Director||Frank Marshall||Nominated|
- Turan, Kenneth (1995-06-09). "MOVIE REVIEW : They Took Crichton Out of the 'Congo'". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2010-10-24.
- Doll, Pancho (1994-10-13). "REEL LIFE / FILM & VIDEO FILE : Crichton 'Congo' Crew Beats a Path to Simi Ranch : A menagerie helps create the setting of a jungle airstrip. Another thriller is shot at a Potrero Road house.". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2010-10-24.
- Eller, Claudia (1995-06-13). "Company Town : At the Box Office, Literary Prestige Is One for the Books". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2010-10-24.
- Congo at the Internet Movie Database
- Congo at AllMovie
- Congo at Rotten Tomatoes
- Congo at Box Office Mojo