Green Frontier review: Netflix's supernatural thriller series set in the Amazon jungle is timely and thought-provoking

Mihir Fadnavis

Aug 27, 2019 13:37:18 IST

It is a cruel coincidence that the Amazon basin was found to be on fire the day Netflix dropped its new show Green Frontier – a supernatural socio political drama thriller set in the basin.

Green Frontier demonstrates two things: that Ciro Guerra is a hell of a filmmaker; and with Embrace of the Serpent and now this Netflix show, the imaginative cinematic world he has built around the Colombian Amazon basin is sublime.

We follow the same template as in Embrace – a meditative journey down the Amazon river in search of an elusive truth – and if that film was about a metaphorical out of body experience that lead to a gotcha moment, Green Frontier does it more literally, but how this happens is of course best left for you to discover.

The show unfolds like a typical police procedural – a murder takes place in the hinterlands and a cop from the big city is called in to investigate. Those who’ve followed murder mystery shows like Broadchurch will fit right in here as the show ticks off all the boxes you enjoy about these programmes. But this one diverges in a strange way – there is something supernatural at play, and this is made clear very early on.

 Green Frontier review: Netflixs supernatural thriller series set in the Amazon jungle is timely and thought-provoking

The poster of Netflix series Green Frontier.

Drawing a parallel between the white man pillaging the Amazon basin, the story presents a conflict between mystic civilisations steeped in the old ways and the infernal intruders who no longer respect the sanctity of the land.

There’s a tribe that believes in preserving a body for eternity by burning it down, while another one that finds a way to talk to the dead by using roots from a tree; there are moments where the real and the unreal collide like some sort of a black hole which is also somehow a call back to the way the incredibly corrupt and dangerous Colombia functions.

No doubt, Green Frontier is not understated with its juxtaposition of good vs bad, but it does so in an eerie, thought provoking manner, with the poetic touch of Terrence Malick’s A New World. Much like in that movie, a woman from the Amazon jungles crosses over to the concrete jungle of ‘our world’ and realises how corrupted we humans have become; there is also a conquistador who attempts to use and defile her in a typically virulent manner in the name of discovery.

The similarities between Green Frontier and A New World are actually beneficial to the show because they work very well with the atmosphere the showrunners have created here –the mystical, ponderous dreamland where you can almost smell the lush green trees thanks to the incredible sound design and natural light cinematography. There is a certain relish in the way the showrunners present the Amazon as the beating heart of the earth whose aorta has been clogged with intruding elements; there is passionate finesse in the depiction of the tribals in the creepy masks, the supporting cast of non actors brought in for authenticity, the presence of a missionary church that seems to hide a secret, and also the rites of passages for those seeking adventure in an exotic land. The directors have quite an eye for ancient lore, and they often seem as drunk by it as the conspicuously consumptive villain.

The show isn’t without its problems though, the biggest of which is the cop protagonist Helena (Juana Del Rio) becoming part of an all too convenient war because she was lucky enough to be assigned this particular case. Moreover, in its overt attempts to portray flora and fauna as sacrosanct the show does become more a national geographic infomercial than a thrilling whodunit that it starts off as.

But because the messaging is important the flaws are forgivable; after all torture and vengeance in the shadows of the Amazon basin are but metaphysics in Ciro Guerra’s world. As I type this there are warplanes dumping water on Amazon as the Brazilian military struggles to fight the fires. There are reports of documents showing that the fascist Jair Bolsanaro has planned out a systematic ravaging of the forest that would create an irreversible effect on the planet, just for the short term benefit of him and his cronies. And his response to the global outcry over the destruction of the world’s largest tropical rain forest is that outsiders shouldn’t meddle in his affairs. Knowing this, and the global ‘ecocide’ unfolding in front of our eyes, the villain in Green Frontier and his actions being so cartoonishly evil no longer seem far fetched.

Rating: ★★★

Updated Date: Aug 27, 2019 13:37:18 IST