Congo is a 1995 American science fiction action-adventure film loosely based on Michael Crichton's novel of the same name. The picture was directed by Frank Marshall starring 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. Congo received quite negative reviews but performed better than Paramount expected.
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Frank Marshall|
|Screenplay by||John Patrick Shanley|
by Michael Crichton
|Music by||Jerry Goldsmith|
|Edited by||Anne V. Coates|
|Distributed by||Paramount Pictures|
|Box office||$152 million|
While testing a communications laser in a remote part of the Congo jungle, TraviCom employees Charles Travis and Jeffrey Weems discover the ruins of a lost city near a volcanic site. Karen Ross, assisting at TraviCom's headquarters, does not hear back from their team and activates a remote camera, discovering the camp destroyed with numerous corpses, before something large destroys the camera. Karen alerts TraviCom's CEO and Charles' father, R.B. Travis, who informs her that the group was actually searching for a rare blue diamond. Travis implores Karen to lead another expedition to the site to find his son, who is also her former fiancé.
Meanwhile, Peter Elliott, a primatologist at the University of California, Berkeley, and his assistant Richard teach human communication to primates using a mountain gorilla named Amy. With a specialized backpack and glove, her sign language is translated to a digitized voice. Despite the success, Peter is concerned by Amy’s drawings of jungles and the Eye of Providence, and seeks funding to return Amy to Africa, but the university is reluctant. Romanian philanthropist Herkermer Homolka offers to fund the expedition. Having learned of the trip, Karen has been bugging Peter via calls and messages to join his expedition since her visas are worthless without being connected to him. At first he is reluctant and refuses to let her on board, but once Homolka's failed credit almost stops the trip, her money comes in handy to fuel the plane and save the expedition.
In Africa, the group meets expert guide Captain Monroe Kelly but are captured by local militia leader Captain Wanta, who grants them passage for a sizable bribe which the well funded Karen again provides. Amy, threatened by the presence of another female near Peter, repeatedly insults Karen. As the group boards another plane, Monroe reveals that Homolka has led previous safaris in search of the "Lost City of Zinj", with disastrous results. The group parachutes into the jungle just before their plane is shot down by Zairean soldiers.
On the ground, they encounter a native Ghost Tribe. The tribe leads them to Bob Driscoll, a wounded member of Charles' expedition in a catatonic state. On seeing Amy approaching, Bob begins screaming in fear and soon dies. The group continues by boat, and learn that Homolka, in search of Zinj and its fabled diamond, believes that Amy's drawings suggest she has seen the mine and can lead them to it. After an attack by massive hippos, they find the ruined camp and the nearby City of Zinj. While searching the city, Richard decides to stay outside and he and the guard left with him are killed by a vicious grey gorilla. They take shelter at the ruined camp, keeping other gorillas at bay with a perimeter created with high tech equipment sent by Karen's boss. Homolka announces that he translated the hieroglyphs, which say, "We are watching you".
When day breaks, they find Homolka, several aides and Amy missing. Agreeing to find and return their human companions first, they return to the city. They surmise from the hieroglyphs that the city’s inhabitants specially bred the grey gorillas, encouraging their violent tendencies to guard the mine and kill anyone looking to steal the diamonds. The group suspects the gorillas turned on their masters yet still continue to protect the mine as trained to do. They find the diamond mine and detecting their presence, the grey gorillas begin to emerge from their caves. Homolka, crazy with greed, begins to collect diamonds as the others try to warn him to leave them for fear of reprisal. Unwilling to leave the diamonds and the prospect of a fortune, he is soon cornered then killed by a pack of gorillas. Monroe, Karen, and Peter fight off the gorillas and flee deeper into the mine, where they discover Charles' body, still holding a giant blue diamond in hand. As Amy protects Peter, Monroe fends the other gorillas off while Karen fits the diamond into a portable laser. The volcano begins to erupt, and Monroe, Karen, Peter and Amy escape as the city is flooded with lava, killing the gorillas.
Once safe, Karen reports to Travis on finding the diamond and confirming Charles' death. Realizing Travis was only interested in the diamond, she uses her laser to destroy the TraviCom satellite. In the nearby wreckage of another one of Travis' expedition cargo plane they had found earlier, they find a usable hot-air balloon, and prepare to leave. Peter sees Amy with a troop of silverback gorillas and bids her goodbye. The three take off in the balloon, and Karen has Peter throw away the large diamond - he chucks it back into the jungle below.
Amy follows the departing balloon with a sad smile, then runs off to join her new silverback family - home at last.
- Laura Linney as 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 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 Monroe Kelly, the "Great White Hunter" and mercenary who leads the group.
- Tim Curry as Herkermer Homolka, a Romanian man who offers to finance the expedition. He poses as a wealthy philanthropist, but is soon revealed to be in dire financial straits. 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.
- 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 (uncredited), a corrupt Ugandan military officer whom the group must bribe in order to gain safe passage.
- John Hawkes as Bob Driscoll.
- Kevin Grevioux as Roadblock Officer.
- Bruce Campbell as Charlie Travis, Karen's ex-fiancé and R.B.'s son.
- Taylor Nichols as Jeffrey Weems, Charlie's friend who was in the previous expedition with Charlie.
After the success of The First Great Train Robbery, Crichton decided to write a screenplay specifically for Sean Connery, as the character of Charles Munro, an archetypal "great white hunter" akin to H. Rider Haggard's hero, Allan Quatermain. The film was envisioned as an homage to classic pulp adventure tales, and Crichton successfully pitched the movie to 20th Century Fox in 1979 without a fleshed out story. However, the film ran into problems when Crichton learned that he could not use a real gorilla to portray the character of Amy, which led to him leaving the project. From there, it was offered to several directors including Steven Spielberg and John Carpenter who both declined. A brief attempt was made to revive the project in the late 1980s but to no avail. Eventually, Frank Marshall directed the film with little, if any, involvement from Crichton. The film's teaser credits John Patrick Shanley and Crichton as co-screenwriters, but the subsequent trailer and the film itself credit Shanley alone.
Rotten Tomatoes retroactively collected 49 reviews to give the film an approval rating of 22%. Metacritic rated it 22/100 based on 19 reviews, meaning "generally unfavorable reviews". Roger Ebert of Chicago Sun-Times rated it 3 out of 4 stars. He called the film a splendid example of a genre no longer much in fashion, the jungle adventure story. It was also nominated for seven Golden Raspberry Awards. Hal Hinson of the Washington Post called the film a "Spielberg knockoff...shamelessly lifting themes and ideas from a handful of Steven's greatest hits." Hinson also criticized Amy the gorilla as "the most disappointing 'performance' of all" and opined that the supporting actors, Tim Curry and Ernie Hudson, stood out more than the lead actors.
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
|Worst Director||Frank Marshall||Nominated|
|Saturn Award||Best Science Fiction Film||Kathleen Kennedy
|Best Director||Frank Marshall||Nominated|
In other media
A video game based on the film, Congo The Movie: The Lost City of Zinj, was released in 1996. A different game for the Super Nintendo Entertainment System and Sega Genesis was in development, but was cancelled. Another adventure game was released for PC and Macintosh called Congo The Movie: Descent Into Zinj.
- Turan, Kenneth (June 9, 1995). "MOVIE REVIEW : They Took Crichton Out of the 'Congo'". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved October 24, 2010.
- Doll, Pancho (October 13, 1994). "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 October 24, 2010.
- Natale, Richard (June 12, 1995). "800-Pound Gorilla Takes a Seat on Box-Office Bus : Movies: Ape tale 'Congo' opens huge despite bad reviews, bumping 'Casper' to second place. 'Bridges of Madison County' takes third, shows promise of a long life". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved August 2, 2016.
- Lambie, Ryan (September 12, 2016). "The strange prehistory of 1995's Congo". Den of Geek. Retrieved September 29, 2016.
- Eller, Claudia (June 13, 1995). "Company Town : At the Box Office, Literary Prestige Is One for the Books". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved October 24, 2010.
- "Congo". Rotten Tomatoes. Fandango. Retrieved August 31, 2018.
- "Congo". Metacritic. CBS Interactive. August 2, 2016. Retrieved March 26, 2019.
- Ebert, Roger (June 9, 1995). "Congo Movie Review & Film Summary (1995)". RogerEbert.com. Retrieved September 17, 2017.
- Hinson, Hal (June 9, 1995). "Congo Review". The Washington Post. Retrieved March 9, 2018.
- "Congo: The Secret of Zinj". NESWorld. Retrieved December 15, 2015.
- "Williams Pinball machine 'Congo' in the Internet Pinball Machine Database". Internet Pinball Machine Database. Retrieved April 8, 2017.