DIR/WRI: James Gray • PRO: Dede Gardner, James Gray, Dale Armin Johnson, Anthony Katagas, Jeremy Kleiner • DOP: Darius Khondji • ED: John Axelrad, Lee Haugen • DES: Nigel Phelps • DES: Jean-Vincent Puzos • MUS: Christopher Spelman • CAST: Charlie Hunnam, Sienna Miller
Charlie Hunnam stars in James Gray’s The Lost City of Z as famed British explorer Percy Fawcett. Adapted from a book of the same name, The Lost City of Z explores the discovery of an undiscovered civilisation by Percy Fawcett, who was sent to South America on a mapping mission by the Royal Geographical Society whilst working in the British Army. Fawcett, along with a team including aide-de-camp Henry Costin and a native South American, trek down previously-unchartered areas surrounding the Amazon. After enduring the attacks of local Amazonian tribes with some casualties to his team, the native South American guides Percy down a new route where he discovers antiquities he believes belong to a lost, or undiscovered, civilisation.
Percy returns home to England to dismissive reactions about his new Amazonian discoveries. The dismissals encourage Percy to return to the Amazon and he is determined to discover further evidence of a place he calls “Z”. His return visits to the Amazon are either curtailed or postponed due to the interference from certain members within the Royal Geographical Society and, as a member of the British Army, Percy is faced with returning to England to participate in World War I. Percy also must face leaving his wife Nina (Sienna Miller) and his children for several years as he travels to South America. Yet, Percy Fawcett is resolute in his raison d’être, which is to further explore Z and its lost civilisation.
The Lost City of Z, despite a running time of 141 minutes, does not feel long. If anything, it’s too short. James Gray has created immersive worlds throughout the narrative, primarily the Amazon sequences, and cinematographer Darius Khondji must be acknowledged for these on-screen immersive experiences. There are two sequences in particular that are reminiscent of Mel Gibson’s Hacksaw Ridge and Apocalypto. Percy leads his men to war in a sequence that is directed as effectively as Gibson’s Hacksaw Ridge, with both cinematically capturing the hardship and gore of war. There is also a sequence involving an attack from an Amazonian tribe towards Percy’s ship, and without any 3D special effects, it appears as if you’re on the Amazon dodging every tribesman’s flying arrow.
Hunnam delivers an effective portrayal of Percy Fawcett. His delivery of some lines of dialogue is over-the-top, but Hunnam allows you to believe in Percy’s personal mission in discovering further evidence of Z, and the determination is captured within Hunnam’s characterisation. Sienna Miller, despite her minimal screen time, is engaging as Percy’s wife Nina. Nina has suffered alone whilst her husband explores the Amazon and there is a poignant moment where Miller, with the assistance of one falling tear, personifies the inner turmoil of the character. Tom Holland also makes a small but memorable appearance as Percy’s older son. Robert Pattinson, whose character could stand in for a John Lennon lookalike, was underused in the film, mainly to ensure that this film is primarily Percy Fawcett’s.
Another minor complaint of The Lost City of Z is that the Amazon sequences make up a small portion of the running time. However, upon reflection, this is a clever tactic employed by James Gray. Percy Fawcett wants to return there throughout the narrative, yet the time he spends there isn’t enough for him in his quest of discovering a lost civilisation. He wants more, and the viewer can share and empathise in his frustration. The score is also beautiful with similarities that could be best be described as a coming together of Hans Zimmer’s Interstellar and Jóhann Jóhannson’s The Theory of Everything scores.
Percy Fawcett lived through difficult times and this film may present a contemporary allegory, one which encourages you to not sacrifice determination and hope in spite of the turbulent times you may live in. Percy is an admirable human being and The Lost City of Z does him justice, as well as James Gray creating a visually arresting film and a stunning piece of cinematic magic.
15A See IFCO for details
The Lost City of Z is released 24th March 2017