The public consensus is that the once brilliant mind of Dr Ethan Powell (Anthony Hopkins) has been melted. After all, here is a man with everything who instead ventured to deepest darkest Africa to live among monkeys, before snapping and killing multiple humans.
The task of administering the ‘last rites’ to Powell’s sanity is another young prodigy, Dr Theo Caulder, a psychoanalyst with the knack of drawing his patient’s out from behind their usual guard – a good thing as Powell hasn’t spoken a word since being captured and moved to the United States for trial. In fact his actions since return have been quite… animalistic.
Despite an altogether un-cooperative and often combative mental hospital team, Theo sets to work to prove that the now mute Doc is far more than a mindless killing primate yearning for devolution, while simultaneously feeding information back to Powell’s estranged adult daughter, a woman who feels shut out by her dad and the medical system meant to help him.
We learn the truth through conversations and a series of silly jungle flashbacks, but they do little to enliven what is essentially a hospital drama lacking in genuine drama.
The initial scenes are momentarily intriguing, but there are shortcuts taken in the rush to generate tension and conflict. Powell goes from a mime to a motormouth in a couple brief sessions, and the bad guy caricatures both in the hospital and the legal system lay things on a bit thick.
Worst of all are the constant attempts to pull at the heartstrings, as if the film is anything more than a sleep rainy weekend time killer. There are forced moments that harken back to The Shawshank Redemption and Dead Poet’s Society, without the impact and appropriateness of either.
Clumsy inserts aside, Instinct is a competent and occasionally taut drama that is worth a look, but it won’t stay with you, and neither Hopkins nor Gooding would have framed posters hanging on the den wall.
Final Rating – 6.5 / 10. My first instinct would be to tell you not to bother.