Directed by James Gray
Starring Charlie Hunnam, Robert Pattinson, Sienna Miller, Tom Holland, & Angus Macfadyen
Film Review by Chris Olson
"We must attempt to engage."
One of the most poignant lines delivered in James Gray's epic adventure film, The Lost City of Z, and one which encapsulates its message so eloquently. Spoken by the central character, Percival Fawcett (Charlie Hunnan), as he attempts to convince his team of adventurers to "break bread" with a tribe of cannibals in the deepest depths of the Amazon rainforest, this idea of promoting cross-cultural relationships and understanding is at the heart of the movie.
Fawcett is a would-be hero looking to make his mark on the world when we meet him at the beginning of The Lost City of Z. Upset by his lack of badges to commemorate his bravery as a military man, the opportunity to make maps in South America with the Royal Geographical Society does little to peak his excitement. However, once there, he gets the bug for exploration, becoming obsessed with the idea of finding an ancient civilisation which may hold important answers to huge questions. Standing in his way, though, are the ignorant powers-that-be at home who stifle his efforts, a benefactor (Angus Macfadyen) whose initial support of Fawcett's journey soon turns sour when he proves ill-equipped for the rigours of the rainforest, and a growing pressure from his family whom feel he has all but abandoned them. Not to mention the looming spectre of WWI which "sets the world on fire".
Cinematically there is a huge amount to enjoy about Gray's film. It provides immersive visuals that are sumptuous yet tonally cohesive, and the avoidance of glorifying the wonders of the rainforest is a master stroke. Instead the landscape of the jungle is not so dissimilar to that of rural Britain, which makes the themes of global unity and peace even more striking. The film also draws excellent parallels between the so-called savagery of the natives in South America, and the actual savagery of so-called civilised society in Europe.
Enhanced by well-developed characters, Gray brings out a quiver of excellent performances, in particular Robert Pattinson as one of Fawcett's companions. His curmudgeonly attitude towards ineptitude is brilliantly funny, as is his physical presence during the film's more strenuous scenes. One particular great line delivered by Pattinson involves a threat to shoot someone up the arse, which is beautiful. Tom Holland also plays a strong role in the latter half of the film, playing Fawcett's son. He copes well with the emotional core that gets developed over the course of a decade or so, and contributes effectively to the parallel themes of sacrifice for the sake of progress.
Watch the official Movie Trailer for The Lost City of Z above.
Hunnan does a formidable job of holding the lion's share of The Lost City of Z. The range of sequences he traverses are balanced well with the movie's political commentary. That being said, the initial third of the film felt a little baggy, and Hunnan does not hit his stride until he is deep into the jungle. It felt like the film leans a little too heavily on him and suffers momentarily for it. Conversely, there some excellent sequences of his struggles, in the jungle and with his wife, played by Sienna Miller, who is another fantastic performer in the film.
Few films will emerge this year that try and make as intelligent points as this, and do so as eloquently. It is wonderfully cinematic and laden with hope, understanding and dignity - all things the world needs right now.
The Lost City of Z is out in UK cinemas March 24th.