Imagine a yearning in your heart: a yearning shrouded in uncertainty, a yearning which tugs at you incessantly until you are compelled to give in, putting on the line relationships, reputation, sanity, safety and even the safety of some of your loved ones.
Directed by James Gray (The Immigrant) and based on the biographical book by the same name, The Lost City of Z is an adventure drama about such a yearning, where the expeditions of a 1900s Amazon explorer played by Charlie Hunnam make for a fascinating tale.
This story, of course, is about real-life adventurer Percy Fawcett, who was a British geographer, soldier, and archaeologist. Obsessed with the discovery of Z — an indigenous advanced city he believed existed in the jungles of Brazil — he disappeared, alongside his eldest son who had travelled with him, never to be found again.
The Lost City of Z is an adventure worth exploring
The performances here are mostly good, and from a well-known cast. Fine in their supporting roles are Tom Holland (Jack Fawcett) as the trusty eldest son of Percy, and Robert Pattinson in a surprisingly engaging turn as the bearded Corporal Henry Costin who accompanies our hero. But the best of the supporting cast is Sienna Miller (Nina Fawcett) as the wife of Percy, who is persuasive in her somewhat complex role as a woman in the 1900s who must stand by her rather crazed husband.
The most crucial performance, of course, is by Hunnam in the lead role, and he is very good, though not always convincing. The role was originally meant to go to Brad Pitt until he dropped out due to scheduling issues, and then was handed to Benedict Cumberbatch, who also moved on due to similar problems. Finally, it was given to Hunnam, who apparently had been looking for such an opportunity, and prepared for the job by actually adventuring in the wild while breaking off communication. Here, Hunnam is successful at relaying Percy’s bold, charismatic and sometimes rash adventurous spirit, especially when trying to convince a snooty scientific community that a sophisticated indigenous city could have existed, but falls short at conveying the sort of madness you’d expect from a man who consistently returns to a deadly habit that almost killed him once.
This story is about real-life adventurer Percy Fawcett, who was a British geographer, soldier, and archaeologist.
To be clear, The Lost City of Z offers no revelations about Percy Fawcett’s demise. If you are hoping the filmmaker through new research offers a credible theory about the final days of Percy and his companions then you will be left disappointed. This is simply not that sort of a film. In fact, The Lost City of Z ends rather abruptly and is distinctly subdued throughout. But it is absorbing, nonetheless, purely because of its scope, almost like a poor man’s modern version of Lawrence of Arabia.
The cinematography by Iranian-French cinematographer Darius Khondji is top-drawer. The lush, exotic and sometimes haunting locales of the South American jungle are beautifully shot and look absolutely gorgeous on the giant silver screen. Watching the film, you really feel like you are adventuring in the wild yourself. The film is not only a treat for videophiles but audiophiles as well, with wonderfully created ambient sound effects. Rounding up the stellar production values is the beautifully mournful and almost transcendent soundtrack by Christopher Spelman, which deepens the sense of yearning of Fawcett’s soul, and helps make the trek to The Lost City of Z a journey worth taking.
Rated PG-13 for violence, disturbing images, brief strong language and some nudity
Published in Dawn, ICON, April 30th, 2017