To Walk With Lions

King of the Serengeti: George (Harris) takes a stroll with his favourite lion...
dir Carl Schultz scr Keith Ross Leckie
with Richard Harris, John Michie, Kerry Fox, Ian Bannen, Hugh Quarshie, Honor Blackman, Geraldine Chaplin, David Mulwa, Guy Williams, Steenie Njoroge, Tirus Gathwe, Ng'ang'a Kirumburu
00/UK 4 out of 5 stars
Review by Rich Cline
Continuing the true story of Born Free, To Walk With Lions is a gripping, surprisingly well-made film about people struggling to protect Africa's wildlife. It starts out like a TV movie bio, but soon shakes off any low expectations with first-rate production values, excellent acting and a strong dramatic centre. And amid the suspense and intrigue is a very nicely handled coming-of-age story.

Tony Fitzjohn (Michie) is a 20-something drifter with no family and no home, then he meets George Adamson (Harris), who with his brother Terrence (Bannen) has dedicated his life to returning lions to the wild in Kenya. But there are forces at work here that will upset this idyllic life--poachers marauding through the elephant and rhino population, herdsman overrunning the land, bandits thieving and killing anyone in their path, and politicians unable to take a stand. Eventually Tony links up with an anthropologist (Fox) to find a solution ... if it's not already too late.

As it's a factual story, the events don't run in a predictable dramatic arc; violence is sudden and unexpected, and we soon realise we can't expect everything to end happily ever after. But the film wisely anchors itself on Tony's journey from womanising drunkard to responsible conservationist, spurred on by the cantankerous old George, who's brilliantly played by Harris. It's great to see him in such a large, meaty role after a long string of colourful cameos. (In this film, those small turns belong to Blackman and Chaplin as the women in George's life.) And Michie is up to the challenge as well, even if Tony is a bit one-dimensional sometimes. We get a real sense of how he gradually comes to discover his place in the world--and how he and George find in each other the family neither has ever had. Schultz directs the film beautifully, avoiding (and even poking gentle fun at) those Out of Africa cliches, and the story's urgency and importance comes through strongly without getting preachy or maudlin.

[12--adult themes, violence] 25.May.00
UK release 26.May.00

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Frank E Dee, net: "It indeed was sensational to see this great true film. The actors deserve awards for this true epic. We at Golden Music Memories of Yesteryear enjoyed a film that sent out a message about protecting our wildlife such as the film pointed out. This movie should have a 10 rating."

Mrs Lorraine Coull, UK: "As an amateur actress and somebody whose introduction to wildlife was the original Born Free, I was astounded at the likeness of the late Richard Harris to the late George Adamson. I have read his biography and feel that Harris did the great man a lot of justice. Plus it created the real feel of the problems faced today. I don't want to detract from Bill Travers and Virginia Mckenna - I belong to the Born Free Foundation - but this film was indeed a more realistic look at Africa. I would love to be able to contact Mr Fitsjohn himself if possible, as I am planning to go back to Kenya with a view to making my own film about the current state of the wildlife out there, and the controversial plans that some states have to gain funds (ie, so-called canned hunting and certain trophy hunting) in order to put these funds to use for future game conservation." (20.May.04)

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2000 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall