That is the Question… The Lost City of Z[ed] is a film about one man’s obsession. Sons of Anarchy’s Charlie Hunnam plays Colonel Percival Fawcett, as the story opens in Ireland during the turn of the past century. He’s an undecorated, despite being resourceful, officer in the British Army, whom tries to reclaim the honor of his family’s name, after his father had disgraced it in some vague way, although historically Edward Fawcett was a professional Cricket player, the filmmakers had to make a reason for Percy’s drive.
When an opportunity for Fawcett to make a name for himself is presented, he reluctantly accepts an assignment to map Rio Verde in Bolivia from the delta to its source. While en route to Bolivia he meets his Aide-de-Camp, Henry Costin (played by a bearded Robert Pattison), and once landed, Arthur Manley (Edward Ashley) joins the party as the local Foreign Office liaison. The first exhibition is fraught with peril, their raft is attacked by hidden natives, fishing produces little to no results, crew members are lost to piranhas, and despite the lush treetop canopy, there is little to no food to be found, as they refer to the jungle as “The Green Desert.”
The expedition trudges on until they reach their destination, the source of the Green River, and happen upon a wild boar, which a well aimed shot takes down to feed the weary crew. While looking around, Percy finds evidence of a lost civilization, their tribal guide had informed him, that no (White) Man had ever ventured this far into the jungle, the discovery of pottery and stone carving leads Fawcett to believe he’s discovered a lost civilization. If not for the lack of supplies and a leopard running Percival off from the discovery site, who knows what he could have found. When back in England he meets his first born son, Jack, Percival’s obsession begins, he believes there is more to find in the jungle…
After a World War, another failed exposition and about 20 years, Percy and his now adult son Jack set off on their fateful journey that, spoilers, they never returned from.
The Lost City of Z is far from a perfect film, the pace is sluggish, the time jumps are questionable, and the mustaches are abundant.
This is by far the most acting, Charlie Hunnam has done, though no one will be drawing similarities to this performance and Leonardo DiCaprio’s in The Revenant. He tries his best to carry what is more an Epoch than an Epic, his story is closer to a man losing his grip on reality than of a brave explorer. The film was both too long and too short to adequately tell the story of Percival Fawcett.
Had it been an 8 episode miniseries this could have shone bright, but as the 2 hour 28 minute run time (Tom Holland is only in the last 30 minutes), it drags its feet. One scene they’re out of food, and the next Angus Macfadyen’s James Murray is sprawled on the ground, drunk and has eaten a box of, presumably cookies? Turkish Delights? who knows, but they were meant for the whole group once they had reached their destination, then oil is poured all over the remaining rations which forces the second expedition back early. They mention they have horses, yet all we see are the main characters swatting mosquitos on a raft made out of sticks.
Honorable Mention goes out to Robert Pattison who it seems the make up department decided to give him a mystery ailment every other scene. There were also a few times and certain angles that made Pattison look dead to rights like Jake Gyllenhaal.
This was a hard movie to like, as it is too slow and tries to tell more story than it can. Writer/Director James Gray’s past works have been well received critically, although with Z, he is both too precious and careless in the similarities to other Amazonian River-based dramas like Fitzcarraldo and Aguirre, The Wrath of God, both directed by Werner Herzog and dealing with madness and obsession.
The World War One sequence was lackluster, after countless movies in recent years like Hacksaw Ridge has shown how war can be shot, this felt more like the film makers had just dumped some soil on a soundstage floor and had a few guys play army for an hour. Whether you go into this movie knowing the book, liking the actors, or the studio (Bleeker Street backs a lot of really good films), it almost seems like Amazon Studios only got involved because the actors say “Amazon / Amazonia” more times than you can shake a Kindle at…
The Lost City of Z should just be called “This movie lost me, ZZZZZzzzzzz”
About The Lost City of Z
About THE LOST CITY OF Z
Based on author David Grann’s nonfiction bestseller, THE LOST CITY OF Z tells the incredible true story of British explorer Percy Fawcett (Charlie Hunnam), who journeys into the Amazon at the dawn of the 20th century and discovers evidence of a previously unknown, advanced civilization that may have once inhabited the region. Despite being ridiculed by the scientific establishment who regard indigenous populations as “savages,” the determined Fawcett – supported by his devoted wife (Sienna Miller), son (Tom Holland) and aide-de-camp (Robert Pattinson) – returns time and again to his beloved jungle in an attempt to prove his case, culminating in his mysterious disappearance in 1925. An epically scaled tale of courage and obsession, told in James Gray’s classic filmmaking style, THE LOST CITY OF Z is a stirring tribute to the exploratory spirit and those individuals driven to achieve greatness at any cost.
Starring: Charlie Hunnam, Robert Pattinson, Sienna Miller, Tom Holland, Angus Macfadyen, Edward Ashley, Clive Francis, Ian McDiarmid, Franco Nero