Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Frank Marshall|
|Produced by||Kathleen Kennedy
|Screenplay by||John Patrick Shanley|
|Music by||Jerry Goldsmith|
|Editing by||Anne V. Coates|
|Distributed by||Paramount Pictures|
|Release dates||June 9, 1995|
|Running time||109 minutes|
American Sign Language
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.
||This article's plot summary may be too long or excessively detailed. (May 2013)|
Charles Travis (Bruce Campbell) is the ex-fiancé of electronics expert Karen Ross (Laura Linney) and they are testing a diamond-powered communications laser in a remote part of the Congo by a dormant volcano. Charles' friend Jeffrey (Taylor Nichols) discovers an ancient lost city's ruins and brings Charles with him. But when Jeffrey goes to explore the city, he's mysteriously killed along with Charles. Karen, waiting in TraviCom's headquarters for Charles to test the device, activates a video feed and is shocked to see a destroyed camp with several dead bodies. A shadowy animal knocks the camera over ending the transmission. TraviCom's CEO and Charles' father R.B. Travis (Joe Don Baker) reveals why they're exploring the Congo. He wants to find a rare blue diamond that's only found at the volcanic site and will help expand his communication technologies. He orders Karen to finish the mission and find the blue diamond. She makes Travis promise that he's sending her there for his son, and not simply for a diamond.
Meanwhile, Dr. Peter Elliott (Dylan Walsh), a primatologist at the University of California, Berkeley, and his assistant Richard (Grant Heslov) have devised a way to 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 an open eye. 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 then approached by a Romanian philanthropist, Herkermer Homolka (Tim Curry), who offers to fund the expedition. Karen, hoping to find Charles, joins Peter and provides additional funding.
Upon arriving in Africa, the group is met by their expert guide Captain Munro Kelly (Ernie Hudson). However, they're soon captured by the local authorities and questioned by a militia leader named Captain Wanta (Delroy Lindo) who grants them passage in exchange 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 covertly crosses the closed Zaire border but 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. While Amy is playing with Richard they inadvertently knock over the communication equipment destroying it and leading Travis to conclude that this second expedition has met a similar fate as the first. He organizes and sends another expedition. The next morning, a ghost tribe's members enter the camp, claiming to have found a dead white man with the TraviCom logo on his clothes.
The tribe's members lead the team to Bob Driscoll (John Hawkes), a member of the original TraviCom expedition. He's not actually dead but in a catatonic state and the tribe performs a ritual to summon his spirit back to his body. After they revive him, Bob sees Amy and begins screaming, before coughing up blood and dying. Perplexed, the group heads deeper into the jungle by boat. Munro again presses Homolka about his obsession with the lost city, and he reveals that as a young man he found a book in Soviet Georgia that contained a drawing of Zinj where King Solomon was believed to have had a vast diamond mine. The drawing featured a peculiar decoration that resembles 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 see the plane from the third expedition take anti-aircraft fire from the Zaire Air Force and watch as it burns up and crashes.
Arriving at the empty camp site, the group finally discovers Zinj. Peter, Karen, Munro, Homolka, and head porter Kahega (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje) enter the ruins while Amy, Richard, and the remaining porters wait outside. While the first group searches the city, they see a certain hieroglyphic everywhere. Suddenly, a hysterical Richard runs into the city with his head covered in blood. He collapses dead and a gray gorilla comes out of the shadows and attacks the group, but is killed by gunshots. That night, they set up a secure camp. Gray gorillas then attack the perimeter after dark and are driven off by automated sentry guns set up by Karen. Homolka translates the repeated hieroglyph to: "We are watching you."
The group reenters the ruins, where they find hieroglyph pictures of people teaching the gorillas to be "guard dogs" for the mines and to kill anyone trying to steal the diamonds. It is theorized that the plan backfired and the gorillas turned on their masters, which is why the city collapsed; the gorillas then taught their offspring to defend the area from all intruders, even from other gorillas (whose remains are also found in the mine). Soon they find Homolka at the entrance of Solomon's diamond mine. Homolka picks up handfuls of large diamonds but they're again ambushed by the gorillas, who appear to be living in the mine with its precious minerals. Homolka is killed and the others open fire. In a large chamber in the mine (which is so thickly lined with diamonds it resembles a huge geode), Karen and Peter find Charles' dead body, holding a large blue diamond in his hand. Kahega and the other porters run out of ammunition and are killed. As the gorillas attack Peter, Amy arrives and fiercely protects him from them, giving Karen enough time to load the blue diamond into her own laser, which she uses as a weapon on the gorillas. The volcano then suddenly erupts, collapsing the mine into molten lava. This gives the three survivors and Amy time to escape as the gorillas are killed by the boiling lava.
Upon escaping from the city and volcano, Karen contacts Travis and informs him that she found the blue diamond, but that Charles is dead. However, when she realizes that Travis only values the diamond, she programs the laser to target TraviCom's orbiting multimillion-dollar satellite, destroying it. Having found the crashed cargo plane from the third expedition (equipped with a hot air balloon), Karen has Munro set it up. Peter says goodbye to Amy as she's set free in the wild and joins a group of mountain gorillas. At sunset, Peter, Karen, and Munro set off in the balloon. Karen has Peter throw away the only diamond she managed to save from the mine. The balloon sails away over the jungle as Amy looks on and heads off with the mountain gorillas.
- 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 much less successful: 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.
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|
- 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