Amazon Studios & Bleecker Street
There’s a certain amount of excitement attached to THE LOST CITY OF Z because it’s a film where we get to see Charlie Hunnam go on an adventure in the jungles of the Amazon dressed as an old-timey adult boy scout. It’s also an opportunity for the Sons of Anarchy alum to show us his abilities as a leading man of a historically epic film about the real-life British explorer Percy Fawcett…well, at least he looks good in his fancy explorer garb.
Written and directed by James Gray (The Immigrant, We Own the Night), The Lost City of Z is based on David Grann’s nonfiction bestseller of the same name. Set in the early 20th century, Fawcett discovers evidence of a mysterious advanced civilization that may have inhabited the Amazon. Even though his peers in the scientific community think his finding are absurd and full of crap, he becomes obsessed with proving them wrong. With the support of his wife Nina (Sienna Miller), his eldest son Jack (Tom Holland), and his homeboy and fellow adventurer Henry (Robert Pattinson), he returns to the jungle numerous times to find more evidence to back his case. His journey ultimately ended with his and his son’s mysterious disappearance in 1925.
Fawcett’s story is an amazing tale of courage and wild passion for undiscovered truth. %here are moments when Gray’s adaptation captures those emotions, but the film is one of those movies you’re supposed to like for the sake of liking it. As adventurous as it is, it feels like a film that would have been better if it were released in the late ’90s or early ’00s.
If anything, the film will make audiences want to learn more about Fawcett and this undiscovered civilization. More than that, it will make you obsessed with the disappearance of Fawcett and his son because everyone loves creepy campfire stories like that — especially if they’re real. Unsolved mysteries are always a hook into good storytelling, but Lost City of Z doesn’t quite do the job. Instead, it focuses on Fawcett’s obsession with finding the civilization, family life, and his relationship with his science bros that ridicule him. You get lost in all of the hoo-ha and repetitiveness of his personal life when you really just want him to go on an adventure in the jungle. I understand that the behind-the-scenes struggle is necessary, but I’m shallow. If I want to find out more about Percy Fawcett I’ll read a biography of watch a documentary. With this film, I’m shallow. I just want Jumanji-like action that ends with a haunting cliffhanger mystery.
Hunnam is a talented actor, but his rugged good looks weren’t enough to fuel his performance. The story was bigger than him and he couldn’t seem to find a solid footing to sell this remarkable story. Don’t get it twisted — Hunnam commits to the role of Fawcett. He just doesn’t disappear into it because all I see is Hunnam playing Jax Teller playing Percy Fawcett. His charisma is fantastic, but his performance lacked the extra dimension of panache and emotional grit that is required for a role like this.
Once again, Miller is underused and sidelined as the supportive wife — which is a damn shame. I’m sure Miller is a talented actress, but we haven’t seen much from her to prove that. Her character in Lost City of Z is pretty much the same character we have seen her perform in Live by Night, American Sniper, and Foxcatcher — a wife whose sole duty is to stand by and support her man. When is this gal gonna catch a break?
Pattison also does his best impression of a bumbling bearded aide-de-camp while Holland comes steps in as the strong-minded son who who at first resents his father but then wants to be his best bud. The film is filled with other fine thespians with fancy accents, but if an MVP had to be picked, it would be Angus Macfadyen as James Murray — an arrogant wannabe explorer that you will cheer for when he gets gangrene.
If the top priority of The Lost City of Z was to make audiences aware of the courageous tale of Percy Fawcett via a handsome cast, it did its job well. But if it’s top priority was to capture the essence and emotion of one of history’s greatest explorers, then it did about 60 percent of its job. Gray finely captured a moment of history with sweeping visuals and an epic scope, but in its 140-minute run time, the film drags along when it should entice and captivate — especially with this particular story. The intent of the film is great, but in the end it’s disposable and will make you more interested in a Fawcett documentary.
Running time: 140 minutes
Dino watches too much TV, enjoys reality singing competitions and laughs inappropriately during dramatic films. He’s a fan of comedy, podcasts, and comedy podcasts. He’s a reformed comic book geek and thinks “The Goonies” is the best movie of all time. When he isn’t stuffing his face with a burrito, he’s thinking about his next trip to Disneyland.
Follow Dino on Twitter: @dinoray
Keep up with all of Dino’s reviews and stories here.
Dino-Ray Ramos | Staff Writer