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INSTINCT

About the Story

Theo Caulder (Cuba Gooding, Jr.) is an ambitious psychiatric resident who has been asked to evaluate the case of anthropologist and primatologist Ethan Powell (Academy Award-winner Anthony Hopkins). A noted scientist, Powell vanished four years ago while studying the reclusive mountain gorillas in Rwanda. When a group of park rangers discovered Powell living among the gorillas, he turned on them, brutally murdering two of the rangers. Caulder becomes intrigued by the high-profile case. Sensing a career-making opportunity, and a possible book about the anthropologist, Caulder asks to be assigned to the case. "Theo is supposed to just research the Powell case, but when he sees how interesting the case is, he goes after it as a move to solidify his position," says Academy Award-winner Cuba Gooding, Jr. "He asks for the Powell case in order to make a name for himself."

"Theo is being groomed by his mentor, Ben Hillard (Donald Sutherland) to become a professional hotshot," adds director Jon Turteltaub. "They are quite good at what they do, including their ambition, their power, and their ability to succeed in all the manners that our fathers want us to: good job, good family ... to play within the system and win. He's bought into that, he's what the book calls a 'taker."'

Caulder begins his first sessions with Powell in the interrogation rooms of Harmony Bay, an oppressive, rundown maximum security prison in Florida's back country Sedated and shackled, Powell has retreated into himself and won't speak to anyone. Increasingly frustrated by Powell's silence, Theo turns to Powell's estranged daughter, Lyn (Maura Tierney) for help. "Lyn's a woman who's conflicted between saving herself more heartbreak over her father's absence, and committing herself to helping get him back," notes Tierney. "My character has been hurt by him before, and now she has to make the choice of either shutting herself off or taking the risk of seeing what she can make their relationship into. Theo convinces her it's worth trying to help him."

Slowly, Theo begins to make progress with Powell. Powell starts to share his memories of Rwanda and teaches Theo about the "takers" and "leavers" and a kind of revisionist history of mankind, how we went wrong and how we got to the place we are. "The reason that Ethan Powell connects with Theo Caulder is that the one thing he sees in Theo Caulder is the young Ethan Powell. Work-driven, ambitious, and not very connected to people," notes Anthony Hopkins. "He sees something in this young man that impresses him, and he thinks maybe he can tell him his story and it can at least get passed on."

As Caulder begins the task of trying to understand Powell, he becomes overwhelmed by his story and the tables turn so that instead of psychiatrist and prisoner, it becomes student and teacher. "Theo sees the study of this patient, Ethan Powell, as a way to advance his career, but in the end this man forces him to reevaluate himself, and question his own essence as a man," says Gooding.

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