Film Review – The Lost City of Z (2016)

Title – The Lost City of Z (2016)

Director – James Gray (The Immigrant)

Cast – Charlie Hunnam, Robert Pattinson, Sienna Miller, Tom Holland, Angus Macfadyen, Ian McDiarmid, Edward Ashley

Plot – Based on the true story of 19th century English explorer Percy Fawcett (Hunnam) whose tireless work on discovering a mysterious Amazonian civilisation made him a household name despite his personal costs and eventual disappearance in the jungle in the 1920’s.  

“A man’s reach should exceed his grasp, or what’s a heaven for?”

Review by Eddie on 23/08/2017

It seems like many moons ago that we first heard of news of a big screen adaptation of The New Yorker staff writer David Grann’s famed non-fiction novel The Lost City of Z.

At one stage or another starring Brad Pitt and then Benedict Cumberbatch as real life early 19th century explorer Percy Fawcett, this passion project of acclaimed dramatic director James Gray is a visually sumptuous epic that draws out the best big screen performance yet from its leading man Charlie Hunnam, as we’re drawn deep into the Amazonian jungle as Fawcett and his small band of men venture off into the wilds to find evidence of a mysterious ancient city that would rewrite the history books.

It’s fantastic that Gray stuck by this fascinating story and ploughed on no matter the hardships as The Lost City of Z feels like an adventure film from yester year.

Filmed beautifully on 35mm film by DOP Darius Khondji, Z feels like it’s come directly from films of old and Gray cares little when it comes to Hollywoodizing Fawcett’s intriguing story, one that is more focussed on one man’s journey to prove his convictions right in the face of overwhelming odds and while the film takes detours to World War 1 and back to the green fields of England, Gray’s tale is mostly centred around Hunnam and his arduous treks into the heart of the jungle and into the very heart of madness itself.

After a string of rather mediocre big screen turns, it’s great to see Hunnam shed his Sons of Anarchy persona to embody Fawcett’s stoic determination and rock solid charisma and while ably supported by the likes of Robert Pattinson, Sienna Miller (in yet another low screen time turn) and Spider-Man himself Tom Holland, this really is the Hunnam and Gray show.

No better displayed than when we’re thrust deep into the dangerous and ominous Amazonian jungles, when Hunnam and Gray hit the waters and we go alongside them, Z’s ability to transport us to this time and place is second to none. Which makes it a shame that Gray’s film lacks a true emotional connection to pull us into this world even more.

It’s not easy pinpointing exactly why or how but despite Z’s quality production and committed turns, Gray’s film harbors a coldness to proceedings that makes it’s supposedly emotionally charged human interactions and the films sombre end coda less impactful that one would’ve hoped.

If Z had managed to connect us more to its emotional tics and the culmination of Fawcett’s ambition that was edged forward no matter the cost to his personal wellbeing or family life, it’s highly likely that this often impressive feat of filmmaking would’ve been more of an event it has ended up being.

Final Say –

There’s a lot to like about The Lost City of Z and Gray’s refreshingly old school approach to Fawcett’s fascinating story should be commended but the films disappointment in the emotional connection stakes holds it back from discovering its true potential, despite Gray’s best efforts and proof that Charlie Hunnam can in fact act.

4 upset Peter Parker’s out of 5

18 responses to “Film Review – The Lost City of Z (2016)

  1. I wanted to love this, but I didn’t. It looks beautiful and there is, as you write, some very good acting and directing on show. But, in the end, I felt very little about the people in this. I was unmoved. Tales of exploration usually do move me, but this failed to.

    • I was a bit the same mate, it’s not one I’d race to watch again but I really enjoyed my time with it, but personally felt no real strong bond to any of the characters in the film.

    • I was kind of the same haha, I just have never really appreciated Hunnam’s acting style or general persona but thought he did really well here mate!
      It was a genuine surprise to me.

  2. I absolutely enjoyed this film and it’s definitely making my top 10 of the year. I do disagree with you about no emotional connection. For me the film was about Fawcett, and only him. His family, the war, and even the other characters were only there to show how this mythical city and the unknown had shaped and changed him, and called to him like a siren through the decades.

    • Yeh I really enjoyed the film but on a personal level I was never truely emotionally connected to Fawcett as a person which to me hurt my experience ever so slightly.

  3. Like the review, having recently watched and reviewed this myself. A better film than I expected, well acted but lacking a real end point and arguably too long.

    However, maybe this was all about the journey rather than the destination

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