Congo (film)

Congo is a 1995 American science fiction action-adventure film loosely based on Michael Crichton's 1980 novel of the same name. The picture was directed by Frank Marshall starring Laura Linney, Dylan Walsh, Ernie Hudson, Grant Heslov, Joe Don Baker, and Tim Curry. The film was released on June 9, 1995, by Paramount Pictures.[1][2]

Congo movie poster.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed byFrank Marshall
Produced by
Screenplay byJohn Patrick Shanley
Based onCongo
by Michael Crichton
Music byJerry Goldsmith
CinematographyAllen Daviau
Edited byAnne V. Coates
Distributed byParamount Pictures
Release date
  • June 9, 1995 (1995-06-09)
Running time
108 minutes
CountryUnited States
Budget$50 million
Box office$152 million

Congo received negative reviews but performed better than expected at the box office.[3]


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, loses contact with the team and activates a remote camera, discovering the camp destroyed with numerous corpses. 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 asks Peter to join his expedition since her visas are worthless without being connected to him. At first he is reluctant because no women are permitted on board the expedition plane, but when Homolka's credit fails to fund the journey, she is allowed to join after paying for a spot on board and for fuel.

In Africa, the group meets expert guide Captain Monroe Kelly, but are arrested and interrogated by local militia leader Captain Wanta, who finally grants them passage for a sizable bribe which the well-funded Karen again provides. 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, which is on auto-pilot, is shot down by Zairean soldiers.

On the ground, they encounter a native tribe that leads them to Bob Driscoll, a wounded member of Charles' expedition. 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 mine, 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. Richard and a guard are killed by a vicious grey gorilla. Monroe Kelly and his friends take shelter at the ruined camp, keeping other gorillas at bay with high tech equipment.

When day breaks, they find Homolka, several aides and Amy missing. They return to the city, where they find Homolka exploring, and surmise from 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. They find the mine and are faced with a troop of grey gorillas. Homolka begins to collect diamonds, but is soon cornered and killed by some of the apes. Monroe, Karen, and Peter 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 the four 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 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 Peter throws the diamond back into the jungle below. Amy follows the departing balloon with a smile, then runs off to join her new silverback family.


  • Laura Linney as Dr. 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 Dr. 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje as Kahega, Monroe's deputy and leader of the expedition's African porters.
  • Joe Pantoliano as Eddie Ventro, an American living in Central Africa who hires Monroe 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.
  • Shayna Fox provides the voice of Amy.
  • Frank Welker provided the vocal effects for the gorillas.
  • Gary A. Hecker and Peter Elliott provide the gorilla vocalization.


Development and writingEdit

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.[4] 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.[4] 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.[4] From there, it was offered to several directors including Steven Spielberg and John Carpenter who both declined.[4] A brief attempt was made to revive the project in the late 1980s but to no avail.[4] Eventually, Frank Marshall directed the film with little, if any, involvement from Crichton.[4] The film's teaser credits John Patrick Shanley and Crichton as co-screenwriters, but the subsequent trailer and the film itself credit Shanley alone.


Box officeEdit

In the United States, the film grossed $81,022,101. The final worldwide gross $152,022,101 worldwide versus a $50,000,000 budget.[5]

Critical receptionEdit

Rotten Tomatoes retroactively collected 49 reviews to give the film an approval rating of 22%. The site's consensus states: "Mired in campy visual effects and charmless characters, Congo is a suspenseless adventure that betrays little curiosity about the scientific concepts it purports to care about."[6] Metacritic rated it 22/100 based on 19 reviews, meaning "generally unfavorable reviews".[7] 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.[8] 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."[9] 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.


Award Category Subject Result
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
Sam Mercer
Worst Director Frank Marshall Nominated
Saturn Award Best Science Fiction Film Kathleen Kennedy
Sam Mercer
Best Director Frank Marshall Nominated


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.[10] Another adventure game was released for PC and Macintosh called Congo The Movie: Descent Into Zinj.

A pinball machine named Congo was produced that was based on the film.[11]


  1. ^ Turan, Kenneth (June 9, 1995). "MOVIE REVIEW : They Took Crichton Out of the 'Congo'". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved October 24, 2010.
  2. ^ 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.
  3. ^ 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.
  4. ^ a b c d e f Lambie, Ryan (September 12, 2016). "The strange prehistory of 1995's Congo". Den of Geek. Retrieved September 29, 2016.
  5. ^ 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.
  6. ^ "Congo". Rotten Tomatoes. Fandango. Retrieved August 31, 2018.
  7. ^ "Congo". Metacritic. CBS Interactive. August 2, 2016. Retrieved March 26, 2019.
  8. ^ Ebert, Roger (June 9, 1995). "Congo Movie Review & Film Summary (1995)". Retrieved September 17, 2017.
  9. ^ Hinson, Hal (June 9, 1995). "Congo Review". The Washington Post. Retrieved March 9, 2018.
  10. ^ "Congo: The Secret of Zinj". NESWorld. Retrieved December 15, 2015.
  11. ^ "Williams Pinball machine 'Congo' in the Internet Pinball Machine Database". Internet Pinball Machine Database. Retrieved April 8, 2017.

External linksEdit