Director: James Gray/2017
The Lost City of Z is a tale of real-life British explorer Percy Fawcett as he is tasked by the Royal Geography Society to explore areas of the Brazilian Amazon and map a river between Bolivia and Peru. In his expedition, Percy makes a discovery that will consume him the rest of his life.
Charlie Hunnam (Sons of Anarchy) plays Percy, a career military man who has been stationed within the country, unable to go to the battlefield to win accommodations despite his high rank. When the Royal Geography Society tasks him with taking on this expedition to South America, they offer him the promise to earn that elusive medal, and the chance to redeem his father’s soiled reputation, thus bringing the family name back into good standing in England.
While The Lost City of Z depicts the passionate search for the elusive city in the jungle, this film will certainly be lost in the jungle of the box office this weekend, unable to find quarter in the wake of the Fate of the Furious juggernaut.
He leaves his wife Nina (Sienna Miller-American Sniper) and his young son Jack behind and heads off towards South America. This first journey is an eye opening experience, and it is there that he is accompanied by Henry Costin (Robert Pattinson-Twilight, Queen of the Desert), a corporal in the British army. Costin becomes Percy’s closest ally and will make several more trips to South America with Percy Fawcett. According to the book by David Grann, which James Gray wrote the screenplay from, Costin is a witness to a discovery Fawcett makes of various potteries, and other artifacts which he believed suggested a more sophisticated and advanced civilization had existed in this area. In his speculation, he even theorized that it might be the famed city of El Dorado itself, though he is laughed off by the rest of his peers back in England who believe that such indigenous people are simply “savages” and couldn’t be capable of the sophistication he suggested.
The need to prove this theory and find this lost ancient city, which he dubbed “Z”, became an obsession. While gone, his wife had given birth to their 2nd son, Brian. Upon his return, the effect of his absence is visible as his first son Jack, has grown several years, and barely recognizes his father. His wife, while a realist and very grounded, actually encourages his passion for this mysterious city, even if it means that more trips will result in his absence. While he is laughed at by his peers, he earns the curiosity of renowned explorer and fellow Royal Geographic Society member James Murray (Angus Macfadyen-Braveheart, We Bought a Zoo) who agrees to accompany him on their next journey.
The rest of the film shows the ill-fated trip involving Murray that leads to Murray challenging Fawcett’s credibility, and even seeking to ruin his reputation which forces the Royal Geography Society to remove their endorsement of future expeditions. Fawcett fights again in World War I, in Flanders’s Field, alongside his friend Costin, still dreaming of this South American legend. Following the war, he seeks to lead one more expedition, after his now adult son Jack (now played by Tom Holland-Capt. America: Civil War, Spider-Man: Homecoming) encourages him to take him on one of his journeys.
The Lost City of Z is beautifully shot, well acted, and elegantly presented. It does, however, suffer from pacing issues, and a generic narrative that simply moves along at an expected chronological sequence, feeling as if it is simply trying to just tell us the facts of this man’s life, rather than taking us on the expedition of discovery with the same level of passion as its protagonist. At the end of the film, I felt like I had seen a decent biopic, but not a gripping tale, especially when contrasted with the mysterious ending of Fawcett’s last expedition and its impact on both his family, and the larger field of exploration.
One positive to come from this tale is the reemergence of Robert Pattinson as an actor, and less as a teen idol known only for his role in the Twilight Saga, and his much covered relationship with former co-star Kristin Stewart. Here, he becomes a legitimate character actor, and as such reestablishes himself firmly as an actor that is able to handle more meaty roles in the future, much like Andrew Garfield did last year with Hacksaw Ridge and Silence.
While The Lost City of Z depicts the passionate search for the elusive city in the jungle, this film will certainly be lost in the jungle of the box office this weekend, unable to find quarter in the wake of the Fate of the Furious juggernaut. Like Percy Fawcett, we might wonder if it is even possible to find it, as hard as we might try.