Directed by James Gray
Written for the screen by James Gray (“Two Lovers”, “The Immigrant”), who also directs, “The Lost City of Z” is a biographical film that mixes drama and adventure in unequal proportions. The story had David Grann’s book of the same name as a source and tells the path of Percy Fawcett, a British officer and explorer who truly believed in the existence of a lost city in the middle of the Amazon forest.
The first scenes take us to 1905 Cork in Ireland where Major Percy Fawcett (Charlie Hunnam) rejoices while hunting, one of his great passions. What we learn minutes later, is that Fawcett has an even bigger passion that he just can’t control: to explore remote lands, which no white man has reached before. The sparkle in his eyes shows an unmeasured contentment when the prestigious Royal Geographical Society sends him to Bolivia in the company of the loyal Corporal Henry Costin (Robert Pattinson), a deep connoisseur of the Amazon rainforest, Corporal Arthur Manley (Edward Ashley), and Tadjui, an Indian guide who, knowing the dangerous river like the fingers of his hand, tells him about hidden cities covered with gold and inhabited by ancient civilizations.
Fawcett’s initial curiosity about these stories becomes an obsession when he discovers archeological evidence in the jungle. Managing to dodge from brutal Indigenous attacks and conquering hunger and tiredness, he returns safely to his beautiful and understanding wife Nina (Sienna Miller) and their little son, Jack. Even expecting another child, Nina knows there’s nothing she can do to prevent her brave husband from going back to the jungle and following his dream. It’s his destiny and his will, and Hunnam conveys it perfectly well.
After another failed attempt, in which the infiltrator James Murray (Angus Macfadyen) jeopardizes all the expedition, Fawcett and Costin are impelled to serve their country in the WWI. The noble Major returns as a hero, but his eyes became so affected that a new expedition to South America seems out of the question.
However, with the support of his brave family, Fawcett returns to the impenetrable Amazon forest, this time having just his fearless son Jack (Tom Holland) by his side.
Standing somewhere between "Fitzcarraldo" and "Deliverance", "The Lost City of Z" is a valid tale of perseverance, passion, and courage. There is plenty to like in the stunning frames captured by director of photography Darius Kondji (“Delicatessen”, “Amour”), but the film loses some exuberance in the way it is portrayed. Also, it was a shame that Gray had given less emphasis to the expeditions and its possible perils to focus more on the dramatic side of the story. I felt that a bit more of tension wouldn’t harm or compromise the outcome.
Hence, don’t expect to find an Indiana Jones here, but rather a character based on a real explorer who abandoned his life for the passion of adventure. Solid watching!