The Lost City of Z: Movie Review
IMDB 6.7 – Rotten Tomatoes 87% – Metacritic 78 – Written by David Grann, Directed by James Gray.
Starring: Charlie Hunnam, Robert Pattinson, Sienna Miller, Tom Holland.
The Lost City of Z marks the second movie in Charlie Hunnam’s busy schedule of late as he continues to boost his profile through the pursuit of increasingly more diverse roles in an attempt to expand his range. This time he dons the persona of explorer and historical figure Percy Fawcett, a military man commissioned by the UK Government to map out the previously unexplored Amazon region. In his efforts to do so he uncovers evidence of an advanced civilisation that once inhabited the region and makes it his life’s work to discover what he termed “The Lost City of Z”, despite the immense danger posed by the Amazon wilds and the natives, and the ridicule of the scientific community who consider his bold claims to be impossible.
In this new phase of his career I find that Charlie Hunnam has always struggled to escape from his best performance, the one of Jax Teller in Sons of Anarchy. Any subsequent role has always offered shades of Jax and demonstrated either a lack of range or a reluctance to deviate from his winning formula, that is, until now. Hunnam has finally broken free in his portrayal of a military officer and explorer with Percy Jackson that is both inspiring and moving, with excellently delivered and profound exposition and dialogue, and holds not even the slightest hint of the badass motorbike gangster that elevated his career. Obviously keen to develop his range and profile, I look forward to seeing him continue to get reps and churn out these kinds of performances as his decision not to take on the role of Christian Gray pays dividends for him.
My favourite feature of this movie is one that is subtle and understated but demonstrates a remarkable depth of emotion in the way the real life figure of Percy Fawcett is realised for this film, and that is the use of flashbacks. Throughout this movie, in moments where Fawcett finds himself in mortal danger with the lives of him and his crew under threat, flashback scenes are edited into the shots. Scenes of him meeting his wife portrayed by Sienna Miller, or getting married, of holding his new born child, memories of kissing his wife and hugging his sons. These cuts are used to illustrate Fawcett’s realisation and acknowledgement of his mortality. In moment where he is in danger of death it isn’t himself that he worries about, it’s the family that he has left on the other side of the world and the impact his death would have on them. It’s a very artful and beautiful devise and I appreciated the impact of this very much.
Worth mentioning too is the choice of location as the film appears to genuinely be shot on sections of the Amazon river, and ambitious and dangerous undertaking in its own right that reflects the scale and threat of the endeavours of Percy Fawcett remarkably. The locations are beautiful and ominous in equal measure and cement this production’s authenticity.
One of my favourite type of movies are these biographical representations of famous figures from history, and the impact of the little thought of or remembered contributions they have made to the world and our way of life or understanding of the world today. I like hearing true stories that I haven’t heard before, and appreciating the accomplishments I may have heard of in much greater detail, particularly if these stories reveal humanity and vulnerability in history’s most unassailable figures. This is why I love movies like the Imitation Game, illustrating the oft marginalised accomplishments of gay genius Alan Turing that changed the world as we know it, or the Theory of Everything that gives a depth of humanity and emotion to the story of a man we recognise for his mechanical voice and unperceivable intellect. This movie tells the true story of the ambition, resilience and indomitable spirit of Percy Fawcett that I had never heard before, and shines a spotlight on the politics of the colonisation and exploration of South American, and I appreciated learning about both.
A 3 star movie overall, with 4 star performances from Hunnam and Miller, and a strong cameo from Tom Holland. It is somewhat slowly paced but with some beautiful shot and edited scenes that make the movie a deep and meaningful experience as it works to broaden our scope and knowledge of how we came to understand our world in the early 20th Century.