A powerful and often moving film about the explorer Percy Fawcett, who at
the beginning of the 20th century was a military man without any medals but
with a disgraced name due to his alcoholic, gambling father ('he's been
rather unfortunate in his choice of ancestors').
Accepting a job to map the Bolivia/Brazil border in order to improve his
reputation, despite the time he'll have to spend away from his family, he
comes across antiquities that suggest that there may have been an advanced
civilisation that could change the perception of South America as a country
Returning back to England he is determined to return and find the lost city
he calls Z.
Anyone expecting an action-packed Boy's Own adventure in the style of
Indiana Jones are likely to be disappointed by The Lost City of Z. What
writer and director James Gray delivers instead is a slow-burning study of
one man's obsession in the face of familial responsibility and the
scepticism of his peers.
The Lost City of Z is an impressive film from a director who clearly
desires the return to the film-making of the past (a shot of a stream of
whisky moving across the screen before cutting to a train moving through
the South American jungles is a scene transition worthy of Kubrick and
Lean) and if the scope isn't quite as epic as Lawrence of Arabia the
ambition is hard to fault.
Certainly Darius Khondji's cinematography makes it look the part. From the
opening deer hunt to the surreal discovery of an operatic performance in
the middle of the jungle, the muddy trenches of the first world war that
briefly interrupt Fawcett's search, the native villages at night lit by
fire and its dreamlike final shot, the film is visually stunning
throughout. This is complemented by a fine score from Christopher Spelman
which adds to the sense of epic grandeur.
Sons of Anarchy's Charlie Hunnam gives a fine performance in the lead with
excellent support from a bearded Robert Pattinson as his expedition
partner, Ian McDairmid as the head of the Royal Geographical Society,
Franco Nero as the extravagant opera-staging boss of a mining company,
Angus Macfadyen as a supporter and previous Antarctic explorer who joins
Fawcett on his second Amazonian expedition and Tom Holland as the son
initially scornful of his father's obsession but joins him on his last.
Most impressive of all however is Sienna Miller who delivers a career best
performance as Nina Fawcett, transforming what could have been a thankless
role of the wife who stays at home into a strong independent character in
her own right. By the final shot it's obvious that this is as much her
story as it is Percy's.
Hopefully this will give James Gray the opportunity to make more films on
this scale. Its UK release already puts it ahead of his previous film,
2013's The Immigrant, which still hasn't received a release in this country
despite having a cast that includes Marion Cottilard, Joaquin Phoenix and
An impressive and emotionally involving film that deserves to reach a wide
audience, it would also make a fine double-bill with Ciro Guerra's
similiarly themed Embrace of the Serpent.