The Lost City of Z – 2016
Written and Directed by James Gray
Based on the book by David Grann
Starring Charlie Hunnam, Robert Pattinson, Sienna Miller, Tom Holland, Angus Macfadyen, Ian McDiarmid, Franco Nero
“Praised by the critics” is often a nice way of putting that although it is a good film technically, it’s not likely to stir anyone out of their inertial existence and make them head to the theaters. Never has it been more the case than in The Lost City of Z.
The film covers its subject faithfully. From what I have been able to ascertain, it’s reasonably accurate. The subject is an interesting one, in theory. Who doesn’t want to know if there is a lost ancient civilization somewhere down the Amazon river?
Perhaps if the journey was taken once in a film, it would be a fascinating portrayal. When a man makes 3 trips through the same terrain, each with doomed results, one has to wonder why both he and the viewer couldn’t just guess what’s coming around the bend and bring a boat with some better protection.
Percy Fawcett (Hunnam) is a young British officer in 1905 when he agrees to embark on a survey of the border of Bolivia and Brazil. In the process, he begins a journey that will become an obsession for him over the next 20 years. His companion for his earlier journeys is Corporal Henry Costin (Pattinson), who provides stalwart support and a level mind to compliment his own. By the time he gets to his third journey, his oldest son Jack (Holland) is able to join him. All the while, his wife provides Fawcett with love, support and a belief that Fawcett will succeed.
The missions and their telling by Fawcett provided a fascinating subject for many, including America, where they became an obsession in the early part of the 20th century. His drive is documented faithfully, and it is clear that there is definitely a story here.
The problem for the viewer is that in telling it so faithfully, we see essentially the same disappointment in three parts. Kind of like a Groundhog Day for lost explorers.
Hunnam, and particularly Pattison are excellent here. One gets the feeling of a prim and proper British soldier and his more awkward Garth Hudson-like back up, who is as good at survival as the old wise keyboardist is at being the “music teacher” for The Band. Macfadyen is also quite memorable for his multifaceted performance.
If you watch this film, I believe that you will not be disappointed in its premise, execution or in any of the performances. They are all handled expertly. It’s the same true story repeated thrice that gives one pause before deciding to jump in for another go round.
(***1/2 out of *****)