The life story of the late anthropologist Dian Fossey posed considerable challenges to the filmmakers tackling it, and they have been met in admirable fashion in Gorillas in the Mist [from a screen story by Anna Hamilton Phelan and Tab Murphy, based on Fossey’s work and an article by Harold T.P. Hayes].
Fossey devoted nearly 20 years to observing, and trying to protect, the gorillas who live in a small area in the Virunga mountain range, which extends into Rwanda, where Fossey established her Karisoke Research Center. Thanks to National Geographic and films made by Bob Campbell, her work became internationally known, but she alienated a number of people, and was murdered in 1985. (Although her research assistant was convicted in absentia, many feel guilt lies elsewhere.)
After a while, just as Fossey began making unprecedented physical contact with these imposing animals, Sigourney Weaver seems to establish an exceptional familiarity and rapport with the jungle inhabitants. The intense bond makes the later scenes relating to the gorilla slaughter by poachers all the more powerful.
Campbell, played by Bryan Brown, turns up unannounced to photograph her activities and, after initial resistance, Fossey not only welcomes his presence but takes the married man as her lover.
Weaver is utterly believable and riveting in the role. Her scenes with the apes are captivating. Brown lends a nice lilt to his sympathetic interloper. Lensed high in the mountains of Rwanda, the production looks impressive.
1988: Nominations: Best Actress (Sigourney Weaver), Adapted Screenplay, Editing, Original Score, Sound