Today: February 20, 2024

To Walk With Lions

The plight of wild animals in Africa was brought to our screens with family favourite Born Free in 1966.

The plight of wild animals in Africa was
brought to our screens
with family favourite Born
Free in 1966.
Winning two Oscars for its original
song and score, the film recounted the story of George and Joy Adamson:
an English couple who taught their pet lioness how to survive in the
African wild in order to return her to her natural habitat. To
Walk With Lions
comes as the follow up to Born Free, a sentimental true
story that shuns the family film genre in favour of a deeper look in to political
issues of wildlife conservation and survival.

John Michie is Tony Fitzjohn, a drifter who comes to
Nairobi to begin a safari tour job.
After losing his position by drunkenly insulting his would be manager, Fitzjohn
inadvertently gains a position with ageing lion expert George Adamson (Richard Harris) at his secluded nature
reserve. Living as a bit of a
loner with his lazy, but comical brother Terence (Ian Bannen), George continues his life’s work of rehabilitating
lions born in captivity and returning them to the wild. Tony is unsure at first about the
dangers of working with such dangerous animals and sees George as an overly
eccentric old man but soon he begins to understand and respect him as a
fatherly figure. Meanwhile, it
becomes clear that although well-intentioned, George’s protection of the
animals is not something which can continue as times move on. He faces opposition from both the
government who wish to shut down his lion release programme and neighbouring
populations who desire the land within the reserve to ensure their own survival. Increasing danger from poachers and
bandits also threaten George’s work but as the violence increases, he remains
stubborn and steadfast – determined to remain on his beloved land and not be
driven out. He is like a lion
guarding its territory: ‘They live
in their territory, they fight for their territory and they die in their
territory.’

The film is narrated by Michie as Tony as he recounts the
years he spent with George. Tony
comes across as a bit of a drab character at first but he redeems himself when
his empathy and resolve strengthen as the film progresses. When George assigns him to a new lion
cub, he gains a sense of responsibility, admiration and bravery. Most will recognise Richard Harris as
the original Dumbledore in the Harry
Potter
series. He is simply
outstanding as George Adamson, bearing a striking resemblance to the man
himself with his wild hair and portraying his character with great emotion and
conviction. A man with a deep love
and understanding for these wild creatures, George is something of a lion
whisperer: giving them pep talks
and reading to them from the bible.
Having lived amongst them for thirty years of his life, he identifies with
them and holds a powerful emotional connection. It is unclear at times whether it is Tony or George who is
the main protagonist. It seems in
fact director Carl Schultz has
decided to give them equal focus to emphasise their similarities of
determination and fearlessness – the young and the old – one man passing on his
legacy to the other. The extended
cast consists of a series of famous faces from British film and television such
as Geraldine Chaplin, Ian Bannen and
Hugh Quarshie. There is also an appearance from the
lovely Honor Blackman, an appearance
which is far too brief to make ample use of her acting talent.

The setting is stunning, with the vast, majestic landscape of
the African savannah complimented by the widescreen frame, something new to the
film as it emerges on DVD. The
film itself has the feel of a documentary, in much the same way as Gorillas in the Mist. It is never quite as harrowing,
although there are heart breaking moments, with brutal indications of the
horror of poaching. We also get
some sharp ‘grumpy old men’ humour, particularly from Terence as he moans about
the annoyance of the lions and even mocks the title song of Born Free. With the
compelling performance from Harris and the absorbing biographical storyline,
resonating with emotion, this film will certainly strike a chord with animal
lovers equally as well as its predecessor.

Misha Wallace - Social Media Editor

From the age of 4, Misha Wallace became transfixed by movies like Halloween and The Birds from behind the couch, unbeknownst to her family. This has developed in to an obsession with fantasy and horror films (and a considerable number of cheesy 80s and 90s flicks – but she will not be judged). If she was a character in a film she'd be the girl at the end of a horror movie, doused in blood but grinning victorious. Email: misha.wallace@filmjuice.com or find her any time of the day or night on FilmJuice social media.

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