Reviewed by: Todd Adams
Why would a man who loves nature and lives in its beauty become an unapproachable criminal convicted of murder? “Instinct” is the story of this man and this process.
Dr. Ethin Powell (Anthony Hopkins) is a primatologist brought back from the jungles of Rwanda as a murderer of park wardens. He has become more animal than human—and faces the death sentence. Theo Caulder (Cuba Gooding Jr), a psychologist, enters Dr. Powells penitentiary to spend time with him and to try to uncover his mysteries. Beyond the prison walls, Theo Caulder probes the walls of Dr. Powell, and is surprised at what he finds there.
“Instinct” contains violent scenes, but is much less offensive than today’s “norm”. The plot is somewhat heavy, dealing with murder and its ramifications. Yet, the theme is worthwhile and uplifting in my view. Without being overly wishy washy spiritually, “Instinct” makes a strong point for the care and value of God’s creation.
I can recommend “Instinct” primarily on the basis of solid acting, a worthwhile theme, and an original enough storyline. Anthony Hopkins and Cuba Gooding Jr. provide excellent performances in their patient/psychologist roles (and not necessarily in that order). The development of the story unfolds well enough, and a pro-environment message is certainly conveyed. “Instinct” is far from a blockbuster though, and falls short of what it could have been. Subplots within the penitentiary don’t really fit into the flow of the story, gaps in the plot logic reduce credibility, and oversentimentality is everywhere. If you don’t cry much at films, don’t worry, “Instinct” will let you know exactly when to.
I’ve heard “Instinct” described as “Dr Doolittle with a mean streak.” Despite its convoluted sentimentality and imperfect structure, I still think “Instinct” is a fine drama with a worthwhile message, and not offensive compared to most of this years graphic films. It deserves better reviews than it has received from the critics.