By Mark Saldana
Rating: 3 (Out of 4 Stars)
During the first three decades of the twentieth century, British military officer and renowned explorer Percival Harrison Fawcett led multiple expeditions through Brazil to discover the lost cities of legend, but achieved only moderate successes and never uncovered any cities of gold. His courage and tenacity is just as legendary as his inspiration, and his story is absolutely perfect for cinematic interpretation. Writer/director James Gray (The Immigrant, We Own The Night) has made a film intended to honor and celebrate the work of Percy Fawcett. The Lost City of Z does tell Fawcett’s fascinating story, but does occasionally falter in keeping it exciting and thoroughly engrossing.
Charlie Hunnam stars as Lieutenant Colonel Percy Fawcett. The story begins in the early 1900s when Royal Geographical Society commissions him to explore the jungles of Brazil for the purposes of cartography. During this rough first expedition, Fawcett, his assistants Corporal Henry Costin (Robert Pattinson), and Corporal Arthur Manley (Edward Ashley), and their supporting crew members discover remnants of an ancient civilization that once inhabited the Amazons. The team would return for more expeditions, discovering the source of the Rio Verde river and more clues that could lead to a lost city. Some failures and setbacks, including World War I, kept Fawcett and his team from accomplishing their goals. However, in 1925, Percy Fawcett and his adult son Jack (Tom Holland) do return for one final expedition, but a costly one at that.
Adapted from the book of the same name by David Grann, The Lost City of Z looks absolutely gorgeous and has some truly gripping and harrowing moments. Percy Fawcett does make for an interesting and somewhat admirable character, but one with obvious flaws and obsessions with his work. Gray’s film does drag in moments and probably tries to cover too much ground. As well directed and executed the World War I scenes are, perhaps Gray should have trimmed those a bit for better pacing, keeping the focus of the film mostly on Fawcett’s explorations and family life back home. Charlie Hunnam delivers a mostly solid performance, but occasionally fails to make Fawcett a more appealing protagonist worthy of empathy.
The movie also features fine performances by Sienna Miller, who stars as Percy Fawcett’s wife Nina, Tom Holland who portrays their eldest son Jack, Robert Pattison as Corporal Costin and Edward Ashley as Corporal Manley. The film also has solid work by Angus Macfadyen, Ian McDiarmid, Clive Francis, and Franco Nero. Director of photography Darius Khondji deserves high praise for his gorgeous cinematography and the entire production design, art design, makeup and costume departments deserve kudos for their impressive work.
And though James Gray doesn’t quite hit it out of the park with The Lost City of Z, he does earn some moderate praise and tempered expectations. Overall, his film is not bad at all and does have some moments of greatness, but because of the pacing issues and unnecessary lengthy run time, this one might be better left for a home viewing. I expected more excitement and thrills for a movie about historical expeditions; however, this one unfortunately has its dull moments.