MOVIE REVIEW: The Lost City of Z

Early 20th Century costume drama starring Charlie Hunnam, Sienna Miller, Tom Holland, and Robert Pattinson.  In the early part of the 20th Century a British Army Officer is transferred to the Royal Geographic Society to chart the border between Brazil and Bolivia.  We travel with him through his life from that point where he struggles with his family’s history, World War One, the young children he leaves behind, his ambitious wife, and his belief that there was a great civilization deep in the jungle of the Amazon.

I admit that when I heard some people talking about this film before the press screening I got excited by the prospect, the thoughts of a real life adventure to find the civilization that was there thousands of years before our own.  That has to be worth your cinema cash right?  Well, maybe.  There is a lot to admire here, Charlie Hunnam does a good, not great, British accent.  Sienna Miller is feisty and passionate.  Tom Holland proves he can do more than webslinging around the screen.  Robert Pattinson is less annoying than usual.  The costuming and set departments of this film manage to bring us back over 100 years with a flawless reality.  So there is a lot of good in here, it’s just that we’re never in one place long enough for the story to capture us.

Hunnam plays Percival Fawcett, a British Army Officer who is tasked to the harsh border between the two countries in South America, back then this was a long journey filled with dangers around every corner.  The film does its best to convey that to us.  When he finds pottery where there should be nothing other than plants and trees it leads Hunnam to a life long obsession with the area, believing that in this area, where his peers and betters believe that there were only savages living, there was city that matched any city in the British Empire.  Sienna Miller plays his long suffering wife, who wants to join him on his travels, and yet the era will not allow a woman to be equal. 

I think that my biggest problem with this film is that we as the audience are jolted out of one part of the life of Fawcett to another.  I don’t know if it’s just the editing or if there was a problem with the script but there is no flow to the film.  Should it even have been a film?  Well this for me is another example of a story that would have been better suited to a BBC drama, four one hour episodes, with the same production values, and with more depth to the story.  With it being a film they are constricted with the time they have.  I think should it have been a one season mini series event it would have flowed better for me.

The Lost City of Z floats around the social issues, or at least some of them, of the time.  When it comes to the World War One scenes of the film there was part of me that wanted more of those, seeing this Officer, who wants to prove he’s his own man fighting for the appreciation of his superiors, that was a story.  The constant trips back and forth to the jungle and the harsh editing cuts take you out of the story too much to like the characters more than they deserve.

You have to take a leap here, there is a lot to enjoy, and the characters are more than paper thin cut outs.  It’s just that the structure of the film is presented in such a way that you don’t fall in love with them.  For those studying history or ancient civilizations then this could be a good tool and interesting drama based on a true story, for everyone else it’s just the average movie you’ll watch at home when there is nothing else on.

Director: James Gray
Writers: James Gray (written for the screen by), David Grann (based on the book “The Lost City of Z: A Tale of Deadly Obsession in the Amazon” by)
Stars: Charlie Hunnam, Tom Holland, Sienna Miller

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