Let’s get lost.
The Lost City of Z, directed by James Gray follows the life of Percy Fawcett (Charlie Hunnam) who becomes obsessed with finding a lost civilization after mapping part of the Amazon. The film gives us a wholistic look at Fawcett’s life, and shows how deadly obsessions can be.
Sporting a strong cast (including Robert Pattinson as Henry Costin—he has come a long way as an actor since Twilight!) the film rarely misses a beat. Fawcett is shown as ahead of his time in that he views the native Amazonians as human. His desire to prove this lost civilization exists risks his social standing—and his life.
The film is an adventure and a commentary on the limits/end of empire at the same time. Gray effectively holds the mirror up to upper crust British society and forces the viewer to see the major social issues present at the time.
Spread between decades (and continents), this film has a massive scope that does a strong job of not feeling too thin on character development. However, it is Hunnam’s show, and we get to know Percy more than anyone else. The nature of his obsession is elusive, and I liked this decision. Instead of having him give lengthy monologues about what the city means to him we instead get an indication of the ineffability of desire. This subtle change in focus makes the film compelling, while at the same time making it complex.
I know some folks didn’t like the lack of explosive action here, but I imagine this is more a real look at exploration. Boredom, bugs, and hunger seem to be as dangerous (if not more so) than the hostile tribes they encounter. I imagine early explorers were more miserable in the heat than anything else.
The film looks great. If there is one area where the film slightly lacks, it is that the English countryside is given more picturesque shots than the Amazon. We don’t get a sense of the wonder of this region of the world, or at least not as much as I would have liked. Further, with the enclosed scenes in the jungle we don’t get an overwhelming sense of danger often. When it works, it works quite well, but sometimes it seems too much like a set.
This is a good film that verges on greatness in many ways. I truly enjoyed it, but I can see the limitations of budget throughout. If you like deep character studies, I think this one will prove to be a hidden gem.
Also, I oddly enjoyed the movie more than the book. You can take that for whatever it is worth.