THE LOST CITY OF Z (USA/15A/141mins)
Directed by James Gray. Starring Charlie Hunnam, Robert Pattinson, Sienna Miller, Tom Holland, Angus Macfadyen.
THE PLOT: British Army Officer Percival Fawcett (Charlie Hunnam) has never progressed as far has he would like within the army, but when he is assigned to an exploration mission with the Royal Geographical Society to map the uncharted jungles of Bolivia, he finds a passion for the uncharted lands and the mysteries they hold, that he never expected. Fawcett believes there is an ancient lost city waiting to be discovered in the jungle, but when he sets out on his third voyage into Bolivia with his son Jack (Tom Holland), the mystery deepens even further.
THE VERDICT: Based on David Grann’s novel of the same name – which, in turn, is based on real events – ‘The Lost City of Z’ should be a thrilling adventure into the unknown, but even though the film comes in at 141 minutes, we never get to learn just what drives Fawcett to continue to risk his life in the jungle.
The cast is made up of Charlie Hunnan, Robert Pattinson, Tom Holland, Sienna Miller and Angus Macfadyen, and while each of them do well enough with their roles, none of them really get the chance to flesh out the characters to feel real or relatable. Tom Holland has a small chance to bring Jack Fawcett to life properly, as his character runs the gamut of emotions for the small time that he is on screen, and Robert Pattinson’s role is worth mentioning since it is a notably unshowy character for the actor.
The screenplay is adapted from David Grann’s novel by James Gray, and although the story may have worked well on the page, there does not seem to be a narrative arc for much of the film, as the characters simply bounce back and forth from Bolivia to the UK to Ireland to World War II and back to Bolivia. This leaves the film feeling scattered and messy, and given the fact that the audience is never truly given a chance to get to know the characters – especially Percival Fawcett’s motivations to keep walking away from his young family for years at a time – everything feels rather superficial throughout the film.
As director James Gray manages, surprisingly, to pace the 141 minute running time rather well, and even though there is a superficial feeling to the entire film, the story moves along at a decent pace. That said, the audience is often left hungry for more as Gray never fleshes out the characters properly, and even though we go on this adventure with these characters, we never truly engage with them and the discoveries they are making.
In all, ‘The Lost City of Z’ is a disappointment, the cast never get a chance to flesh out their characters properly, and as a result, the audience never gets the chance to understand the passions and drive that keeps pushing these men to put their lives in danger.
Review by Brogen Hayes

  • filmbuff2011

    The Lost City Of Z sees James Gray change tack from his usual crime thrillers to a true-life story spanning over 20 years in the life of an intrepid explorer of the Amazonian jungle.

    When we first meet Colonel Percy Fawcett (Charlie Hunnam), it’s 1905 and he’s at the army barracks in County Cork. Married to Nina (Sienna Miller), Percy has an adventurous spirit and wants to push the boundaries of the known world. He approaches the Royal Geographical Society in London about an exploration into the deepest Amazonian jungle in Bolivia. There, he believes that a lost, ancient civilisation thrives untouched and undiscovered by the rest of the world. He initially sets out with aide-de-camp and trusty friend Henry (Robert Pattinson), as well as Royal Geographical Society member James (Angues MacFadyen) to explore the uncharted wilderness. However, the team only reaches so far due to the machinations of James. Over the next few years, Percy and Henry will try again and explore deeper, encountering natives who may hold the key to the lost civilisation. However, all of this may come at great personal cost to his family, particularly his young son Jack (Tom Holland)…

    Based on the book The Lost City Of Z: A Tale Of Deadly Obsession In The Amazon by David Grann, this is a very singular film with a narrow, focused viewpoint. That’s not a complaint by any means, for this is an inspiring tale of exploration and a distinct portrayal of the human spirit for adventure into the real unknown. It’s a long-ish film at 141 minutes, but every minute and scene feels earned as the story progresses through the turbulent WWI era (depicted in a gut-wrenching trench battle scene) and beyond into the post-War years. Gray is obviously drawing on the works of Werner Herzog here for a 70s jungle feel – Aguirre, The Wrath Of God and Fitzcarraldo spring to mind. However, Gray brings his own distinctive stamp to it, portraying the sweaty madness of the Amazonian jungle environment while keeping his characters in check at all times.

    It’s a beautifully-shot, lit and well-paced film divided into three distinct chapters. Gray handles the transition between the jungle and domestic scenes with ease, with the audience following Percy every step of the way. Well, almost every step of the way. For this is a true story with a mystery and a question mark at the end. Without giving anything away, it’s enough to say that it doesn’t go down the obvious route. Gray does enough to suggest a possible outcome, though not a definite one. While he can sometimes be bland, Hunnam actually achieves a level of confidence and fiery determination which anchors the film well. It’s his best performance so far. Pattinson, almost unrecognisable underneath a bushy beard, provides good support as does Miller. There was a risk that her role might be under-written given that she stays at home, but she brings a resonance towards the end which stays with you. The Lost City Of Z is a fine, expertly made drama which asks some pertinent questions about the human cost of human endeavours into the unknown. ****