Charley Boorman and Powers Boothe in The Emerald Forest (1985)

An 80s Gem

"The Emerald Forest" is an example of why I encourage people to watch older movies they may never have heard of because they could be in for a treat. Now I have no idea why I hadn't watched "The Emerald Forest" before because being made in the 80s it is from one of my favourite decades yet this movie has until recently somehow passed me by. But it is a gem of a movie, based upon a true story, although I would say inspired by is a better description, we have a movie which has action, drama, adventure yet also an eco message about the destruction of the Rainforest. And it all works well together so that whilst we get an understanding of the bigger consequences of the destruction of the rainforest we get this wonderful adventure story as a father goes looking for his son who has been missing for 10 years.

American engineer Bill Markham (Powers Boothe - Red Dawn) along with his wife Jean (Meg Foster) and children Heather and Tommy (Yara Vaneau and William Rodriguez) have moved to Brazil where he is working on the construction of a brand new dam. But one day his son Tommy is kidnapped by a tribe when the family visit the construction site. 10 years later and the dam is almost completed but Bill has not given up the hope of finding Tommy, spending all his spare time trekking through the rainforest in search of the Invisible Tribe who he knows kidnapped his son. It is to Bill's shock when he is saved by his own son who is now called Tomme (Charley Boorman) when he is being hunted by a tribe known as the Fierce People. But after a decade living with the Invincible people and become one of the tribe will Tomme return.

Charley Boorman and Dira Paes in The Emerald Forest (1985)

Now I mentioned that I felt "The Emerald Forest" was more inspired by a true story than based upon and I say that purely because of the amount of action and adventure which contributes to the overall picture. Oh I would say that there was a child stolen by a tribe who after a decade later is found and has become one of the tribe, that is by no means far fetched but all the action from Bill being hunted by the Fierce People to the action and drama at the end, that to me feels more like fiction. Does it matter, no because it means that whilst we have the story of Bill finding his son we also have plenty of action and adventure in the jungle with chases, floating down rapids, injury and the sort of excitement which wouldn't look out of place in say "Romancing the Stone". I won't say how all this action and adventure ends other than to say it is exciting which is part of why "The Emerald Forest" is a bit of a hidden gem.

But whilst we have this action, adventure and drama it also does a fabulous job of delivering an eco message in a not too often preachy manner. Okay right at the end it gets preachy, it gets too in your face when Bill is speaking to Tomme about more white men coming and destroying the rain forest but before that it is subtler. We get to see how the encroaching civilization has forced tribes to change their way of living, holding on to the past but having to adapt to things they don't understand such as guns and electricity. It makes it a movie which reveals its message to you in a way that lets you pick up on it rather than just spoon feeding it to you.

As for the acting, well having seen Charley Boorman taking part in various travel documentaries on motorbikes I was taken aback to learn it was the same Charley Boorman who plays Tomme. And Boorman is good at playing Tomme, getting across the element of assimilation without going overboard. And that is the key thing here because whilst there are times it feels a little bit corny when it comes to the representation of Amazon tribes the acting is spot on. In fact whilst Powers Boothe is the star of "The Emerald Forest" he is outshone by Charley Boorman.

What this all boils down to is that "The Emerald Forest" is a gem of a movie which manages to deliver this wonderful mixture of action, adventure and drama but at the same time blending in an eco message. I would be lying if I said it was a great movie but one which deserves to be better known.