Review

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 of savages.

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 Jeremy Renner.

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.



The Lost City Of Z (15)

2h 20m

Director: James Gray
Starring
: Charlie Hunnam, Robert Pattinson, Sienna Miller, Tom Holland, Angus Macfadyen

UK Release: Friday 24th March 2017

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The Lost City Of Z: "Higher Authority" Clip

The Lost City Of Z: "Amigos" Clip