Man vs. Wild’s Bear Grylls meets Jason Bourne in this new series on the Discovery Channel.
‘Manhunt’, also titled ‘Lone Target,’ follows the adventures of Joel Lambert, a former Navy SEAL, as he works his way through a number of wild terrains to a set destination, or extraction point. As an added suspense-factor, he must not only survive the unpredictable conditions of his surroundings, but he’s also pursued by elite military trackers. Joel is given basic tools and must use the natural resources around him in an attempt to complete his mission within 48 hours, all the while testing the strengths and weaknesses of his pursuers as well as his own.
In the pilot episode of the series, “South Africa: Safari Survival,” Joel takes on the role of a poacher, crossing a wildlife reserve in South Africa while the International Anti-Poaching Foundation (IAPF) employs tactics to stop him in his tracks. Former Australian Commander Damien Mander leads the IAPF and works alongside a team of ex-poachers turned trackers, all of whom are well-versed in the area and more importantly, the methods of tracking.
The camera frame alternates between Joel and his trackers with both sides guiding the audience through their decisions. Although making more rash decisions, Joel simultaneously avoids the dangers of wildlife and stalls the trackers through his knowledge of diversion. The IAPF uses high-tech equipment and transportation, which serves to their advantage despite Joel’s efforts. Tracking Joel’s footprints, referred to as spoors, the trackers demonstrate the extent of their experience and meticulous inspection.
What constitutes a successful capture is quite ambiguous, at least in this first episode. On several occasions, Joel narrowly escapes captivity as the trackers are well within reach of him. At one point, an IAPF member sees him but chooses not to chase after him due to an apparent lion presence, which we see none of during his final stretch. Along with fortunate, or perhaps misleading external factors affecting the outcome of the game, Joel’s plans of action are blindly self-serving and often questionable. It is difficult to step in his shoes in the moments when it clearly appears his journey is cut short.
Questioning the authenticity of adventure-survivalist shows is unfortunately common, the main issue in Manhunt (as in others) is that the show seems to place excessive emphasis on entertainment value, and therefore suffers from obvious accuracy issues which reduce the show’s enjoyment.
Manhunt / Lone Target debuts on Discovery Channel on Thursday 13th February at 9.00pm