The Lost City of Z Review
The Lost City of Z (2016) Film Review from the 54th Annual New York Film Festival, a movie by James Gray, and starring Charlie Hunnam, Sienna Miller, Robert Pattinson, Tom Holland, Angus Macfadyen, Edward Ashley, and Daniel Huttlestone.
Director James Gray got to close the New York Film Festival with a stunning film like The Lost City of Z. With shooting from the English landscape to the Amazonian jungle in 35 mm, Gray went with a cinematic approach to this story and it works beautifully. While watching the film, the audience can feel the humidity of the jungle, the nice breeze from the countryside, and the quietness of the river. These silent moments are shown throughout the journey of Percy Fawcett, played by the enigmatic Charlie Hunnam. We go deep into Fawcett’s story of living a quiet life in the country, entering the battlefield in World War I, and discovering an unknown region. Even the cinematography of this film is magnificent, tender, and disturbingly gorgeous.
The Lost City of Z follows the story of Percy Fawcett, an army man who struggles to give his family a good name in the community. He gets that opportunity when the Royal Geographic Society assigns him to study the Amazon. Teaming up with fellow explorer Henry Costin (Robert Pattinson), Fawcett begins his trek to Brazil with a small team to navigate the jungle and find the source of the river in order to create a map of the area. During this trip, Fawcett discovers some broken pottery and craved images, believing this to be signs of a lost civilization or the City of Z. This begins Fawcett’s obsession in finding this famed city as it takes over most of his life both professionally and personally. It causes him to lose touch with those close to him, including his wife Nina (Sienna Miller) and his three children, including his eldest son Jack (Tom Holland).
The film manages to capture the post-colonial times and the natives that live in the Amazonian jungle through the eyes of this British explorer. The Lost City of Z goes deep into the journey of a man who takes up most of his life searching for evidence of a lost civilization, which may or may not exist. The film explores three of Fawcett’s seven expeditions to Amazonia from 1906 to 1924. The film was adapted from David Grann’s book from 2009 about Fawcett’s quest for nearly 20 years to find the lost city. The quest ended tragically with the disappearance of Percy and his son Jack.
The film showcases a white man who forms a bond with these natives who don’t want to get support from outsiders. With the search of Z taking over Percy’s life, it costs the life of some of his men in what could be a vital discovery in human history. The story doesn’t focus that much into the history and transforms Percy’s life story into one about a man trying to make a name for himself and realizing his fate which he can’t escape from. As a man of substance, Percy ends up following his heart, even if he has to leave his family for years in order to fulfill his destiny. It’s a movie that audiences may have to be patient with as we go through these different stages in Percy’s life. This well-shot film acts as an art-house film but the cinematic beauty of it puts it on a whole other level.
The cast of The Lost City of Z stood out in some great performances. Gray’s direction in the film was more than pragmatic and frequently very gorgeous. Hunnam was marvelous as the suave explorer as he channeled the actors of the Golden Age era of Hollywood. Robert Pattinson had some funny moments playing his character in a role that showed the willingness he would go through for his colleague. Angus MacFadyen also brought in some relief into the film as explorer and Percy’s nemesis James Murray.
The biggest standout would have to be Sienna Miller, who went more in depth as Percy’s patient wife. Miller got to portray a smart and independent woman who has to take care of her children while her husband leaves on his year-long journeys to the jungle. The most powerful scene in the movie was the couple’s argument as Nina strongly wanted to accompany Percy on his expedition. The only concern here is that it didn’t feel like it organically fit into the narrative in what probably is one of Miller’s finest moments in her career. Tom Holland also manages to pull off playing Fawcett’s oldest son Jack as the film also explores the complicated relationship between father and son. We got to see Jack grow from an adolescent teen to a young man as he tries to get close to his father.
The Lost City of Z doesn’t treat itself like a biopic or an action-adventure film. The film explores different issues during the early 1900s, including colonialism, social class, gentrification, and war. Obsession has always made some good drama, and it truly worked for a film like The Lost City of Z. The film is displayed as an unequivocal tale of a war hero/explorer, where he always proves himself to be right and the destination is always worth going for. There were a few flaws with the film, as the story fails to reach to a conclusion and not enough action was put into the film.
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