Courtesy of Netflix

The sun is setting, and the jungle’s inhabitants feast their eyes upon you. Lethargic from a day with no food or water, you have a few minutes to make a decision before the animals rip apart your flesh. Are you quick enough to make a choice, or will you crack under pressure? If you find yourself astray in the scary wilderness, rest assured that Netflix’s latest interactive film will help you out — to a certain extent. 

Netflix extended its “You vs. Wild” show starring Bear Grylls, an adventurer and survival expert, with its short film “Animals on the Loose: A You vs. Wild Movie.” Faced with the challenge of securing wildlife that have escaped the reserve, the film follows Grylls as we make a myriad of choices to help him on the adventure. The journey involves three tasks: finding a lion before it devours a researcher, restoring power to the reserve to safeguard the animals and locating a baboon. Despite a few flaws in directing and limited interaction, the unique medium utilizes certain aspects to its advantage in curating an exciting watch. 

The individual we predominantly witness in the film is Bear Grylls. Grylls is fearless and willing to do whatever it takes to accomplish the mission of keeping the animals safe. While certain individuals may be hesitant to eat a live leech, Grylls isn’t afraid to try new things when it comes down to survival. He’s a go-getter, and his determined demeanor makes the audience feel as though the choices they make are correct. Moreover, Grylls possesses a positive outlook and is willing to undergo life threatening choices, showcasing his commitment to safekeep the animals. He’s the type of guy you would want to be stuck in the wilderness with. In the midst of the mission, Grylls communicates with the rangers through a walkie-talkie, who deliver their lines unconvincingly. It would’ve been nice to see the rangers in the scenes, and their absence makes the audience wonder what they are doing while Grylls is playing the hero.

In terms of directing, the camera follows Grylls through every step of the journey with rapid movements. In one scene that is from Grylls’ perspective, we are immediately placed in a dire situation while we run away from a lion. Since the film takes place in South Africa, the camera showcases a spectacular bird’s-eye view of the translucent, blue waters of the Horn of Africa and the Afri Canyon. They also capture magnificent shots of elephants and other animals grazing in the beautiful savannah.  

However, there are some scenes that are far-fetched and quite silly. For example, we also have to secure elephants from poachers, and Grylls manages to effortlessly hide them and keep them calm until the poachers leave. When he says it’s safe, they start trumpeting again. The more realistic opinion would be to simply confront the poachers. In another scene, the audience can choose to make a raft, and the materials to build it are coincidentally near the ocean. Despite these questionable scenes, the stunts Gyrlls performs and the animals you encounter are real. Hence, you experience the dangers of the mission first-hand through an authentic lens.  

Though it runs 45 minutes long, the film is unique in that it can be prolonged as each choice changes the course of the mission. Now, there’s two types of people when it comes to making a decision: you’re either serious about the mission or simply want Grylls to languish. Once the choice is initiated, watching Grylls plunge into danger really makes one think if they made the right one. For anyone that’s indecisive, past choices can be revisited and changed. Where the film takes a hit is the lack of options. It’s also similar to “Dora the Explorer” when Grylls asks questions and pops out a map after each task is completed. Nevertheless, making a choice on the spot still makes for a fun-filled adventure. The music is also appealing as the audience is on the edge of their seat witnessing the consequences unfold as the adventure progresses.    

The film is not just an adventure, but it also introduces environmental themes along the way. It highlights human actions and how they harm ecological communities and wildlife through poaching and plastic pollution. Apart from basic survival skills, such as using resources in wildlife, perhaps the greatest life skill communicated is being calm in perilous, urgent situations.

Ultimately, the incredible camera work and Grylls’ survival mode makes for an engaging adventure. Though the film suffers from limited interactiveness and uncertain scenes, the rapid choices still invoke a fun watch. In sharing wilderness facts, Grylls also manages to deliver powerful themes.   

Verdict: Although it may seem childlike at times and embodies dubious scenes, “Animals on the Loose: A You vs. Wild Movie” remains an exciting and adventurous watch. Grylls radiates with energy no matter what choice you make as you join him in magnificent views across Africa.