WHAT IS THIS MOVIE?!?!?! Is it a fantasy?! A new-age Indiana Jones thing?! What?! WHAT?!
Well, that came off a little premature. Turns out, this movie is an adaptation of a book of the same name and is about a famous explorer, Percy Fawcett, who went in search for a lost city in the Amazon and disappeared. Well, for those of you that are not in the know, I’m uncultured swine! I don’t read the books! *Gollum voice* IT BURNS US!!! TAKES IT OFF OF US!!!
…. I need to get out more…
But back on track. Yeah, I’ve seen this poster everywhere for the longest time and it took me only until now to know anything about it. You ever have those things that you’re atrociously curious about… but never curious enough to whip out your phone and Google for information because that requires taking precious microseconds out of your day? That was this, for me.
Here’s the ensemble cast! Charlie Hunnam (CRIMSON PEAKS , PACIFIC RIM , TV show SONS OF ANARCHY, and the upcoming KING ARTHUR: LEGEND OF THE SWORD ), Robert Pattinson (the Twilight movies, WATER FOR ELEPHANTS , and HARRY POTTER AND THE GOBLET OF FIRE ), Sienna Miller (LIVE BY NIGHT , BURNT , and G.I. JOE: RISE OF COBRA ), Tom Holland (CAPTAIN AMERICA: CIVIL WAR , IN THE HEART OF THE SEA , THE IMPOSSIBLE , and upcoming films SPIDER-MAN: HOMECOMING  and AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR ), and Ian McDiarmid (the Star Wars prequels, STAR WARS EPISODE VI: RETURN OF THE JEDI , and TV show UTOPIA).
Now for the crew. Writing and directing is James Gray, known for THE IMMIGRANT (2013) and WE OWN THE NIGHT (2007). Composing the music is Christopher Spelman, known for THE IMMIGRANT. Finally, the cinematographer is Darius Khondji, known for IRRATIONAL MAN (2015), ALIEN: RESURRECTION (1997), and SE7EN (1995).
Overall, I have no idea what to say other than it’ll be nice to no longer see the damn poster.
This is my honest opinion of: THE LOST CITY OF Z
Based on a true story, set in the early 1900’s. Percy Fawcett (Charlie Hunnam) was originally a loyal soldier in the British army, but now his government is calling upon him to turn his talents of exploration and geography to the Amazon to map a certain area. Reluctantly he agrees and he and his partner Henry Costin (Robert Pattinson) are off. While there, they discover ancient relics that leads Percy and Henry to believe that there was an ancient civilization there that might be older than the British Empire itself and soon comes a passion to uncover the truth behind his own claims and prove the existence of his lost city of Z.
It’s alright. About half an hour too long for my taste, but I guess all things considered, it’s not a terrible watch.
I think the one thing I appreciate most about this movie is this: the modern relevance… kinda. I don’t know if anyone remembers an old late 90’s TV show called Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s THE LOST WORLD, but if you’re familiar with it or the original book it’s based on, there’s a character named Professor Challenger who’s creation was inspired by Percy Fawcett. But more famously, it has been stated that Fawcett also inspired Indiana Jones. After watching this movie and really giving that tid-bit of information some thought, that sounds about right. This movie does have an Indiana Jones vibe to it and does make sense that this man would inspire such a renowned fictional character. It’s slower paced, dives into politics and the method of survival in the Amazon, it all makes a special kind of sense and I do appreciate the movie for having that kind of atmosphere to it.
But of course, the big selling point is Hunnam as Percy. This is a very compelling character and Hunnam’s performance keeps your eyes glued on him the whole time. He’s this soldier who prefers to be on the battlefield, but rekindles his love of exploration when he finds evidence of a lost civilization. He ventures away from his family multiple times as his family grows. The character is very wisely written to be passionate, not obsessed. Oh, there are certainly moments of obsession. There’s a scene before Fawcett’s third venture into the Amazon where he’s just been pulled out of a battlefield after inhaling gas which nearly blinds him. In the hospital bed, his family is by his side and he starts spouting how he dreamt of Z. I can see someone arguing that this is somewhat out of place because he’s never shown another moment of obsession, but I argue that this could be taken that he’s drugged and the trauma of being temporarily blind caused him to just blurt out the first thing that came to his mind. If I remember correctly, he barely even wanted to return to active duty as a soldier, but circumstances kept choice out of his hands. We know Z is constantly on his mind and you know he has ideas of how to approach the as-of-yet unexplored places where this lost city might be, but you see a grounded man who loves his family and wants to be with them as evidenced when his sight returns and he feels he’s getting too old to explore more. Actually, if there’s any angle that felt out of place, it’s that because we never get the sense of that he feels old. He just says this one line and is later easily convinced by Jack (Tom Holland) to go one last time into the Amazon to search for Z. A small problem that barely matters as a whole.
Another big thing I appreciated with this movie, it steered clear of any easy clichés. In a lesser movie, I feel like the wife character would be too disheveled to want to be in a relationship with a man who is constantly away from his family for years at a time. That would segue into affairs that he wouldn’t know about, catching them in the act, some soap opera melodrama that would make a Hallmark Channel movie proud, the man defends against the pain by going back to what took him away from his family, all that bullshit. But no, it’s actually very easy to like Nina Fawcett (Sienna Miller) because she’s very supportive of Percy’s endeavors, but you know this comes at a great cost to a woman who has to take care of the family while her husband is away and clearly takes a toll on her. But she never goes into that bit where they have to yell and scream, “Why can’t you just stay home with your family?!” Granted, that’s saved for scenes with Jack, which is admittedly annoying, especially for his age at the time of that these scenes take place. Nina doesn’t necessarily disagree with her son, but she knows that Percy does everything that he does for the family, which elevates their social standing, brings honor to their name, and a bunch of other stuff. This is quite possibly the best performance I’ve ever seen out of Miller. Of course, having a movie like G.I. JOE: RISE OF COBRA on your résumé doesn’t set the hardest bar to overcome, but then again, having a movie like STARDUST (2007) elevates her big time, so it leans in her favor still.
Beyond the core actors, the locations are beautiful and breath-taking, there is a real sense of high stakes, you feel the wonder of discovery with the characters, the bitter hatred of those that impede their progress, it more than makes up for any problems. Oh, and McDiarmid with a curly mustache… a cinematic gift from Mount Olympus.
Now for the negatives, as there are only two real problems I had with the film.
This is a long movie and it drags out a lot. There is a ton of political talks that would have put me to sleep like a toddler in the back seat of a moving car were it not for the filthy chai latte I had a half hour earlier. I swear, half an hour could have been shaved off and the point would still come across clearly. That initial courtroom scene with Percy trying to get finance for his second expedition probably didn’t need to be there that long, the trench warfare scene was probably unnecessary, among others.
My second problem was with Jack toward the end. In our first scene with him, right before Percy has to go to war, he’s that missing cliché that this movie had almost avoided, angry with his father for constantly being away. After that fateful battle that temporarily blinds him, Percy deliriously talks about Z and Jack gets offended and walks away in anger. The scene ends with Jack coming up to him and letting his blinded father touch his face. A couple scenes later, Jack starts telling his father that the two of them should return to the Amazon together to find Z. Did you notice the problem? His emotional arch is completely rushed. There is no moment where Jack finally understands his father’s desires to see Z. There’s no scene where he understands the thrill of adventure and discovery. In fact, his opening scene as Holland completely points to the opposite; that it was his father’s thirst for adventure that took him away from his family. We never get a scene with them reconciling or even of him looking through maps, or studying his father’s findings, there’s nothing like that to explain his sudden passion to aide his father in the search. And since this is such a huge moment in the Fawcett legacy, their eventual disappearance, it should have been much more emotionally impacting, but it isn’t by the time the credits start rolling. It’s just an event that happens and that’s not how you’d want that moment to be conveyed on screen. Cut down some of the boring scenes and replace them with a scene with Jack realizing his own desires to see his father’s work done would have been far more beneficial to the story.
A smaller problem includes Pattinson being pretty forgettable, there to simply round out the cast. This isn’t to say he’s bad, he’s just written bland. For a character that was so involved with Percy and his journeying, he surprisingly fades into the background, even if he’s in the foreground.
Overall, I liked this movie just fine. I definitely don’t see myself seeing it again, but I’m glad I saw it and to learn what an impact this man had on modern pop culture, and it is a really fascinating story that’s worth checking out. Can I see people getting bored with it? Oh yeah, and that’s definitely a recurring problem with the movie that ultimately hurts it. But if you’re a patient movie-goer who has an interest in slowly paced stories about exploration and lost civilizations, then I could recommend this. A matinee viewing would be the most advisable considering its lengthy run-time and certainly recommended as a rental. A solid flick worth seeing.
My honest rating for THE LOST CITY OF Z: a strong 3/5