Lost City of Z is a movie by director James Gray that stars Charlie Hunnam, Robert Pattinson, Sienna Miller, and Tom Holland. It’s based on the true story of Percy Fawcett, a British explorer sent on an expedition to map a treacherous region of the Amazon in the early 20th century. Percy’s discovery and subsequent travels were significant in presenting to Britain’s scientific establishment the idea that indigenous peoples could have fully formed cultures and civilizations of their own.
One draw of this movie for me was to see the lead actor, Charlie Hunnam, taking on a role that seemed well outside the scope of his biker character from the Sons of Anarchy television show. In this respect I was disappointed because he didn’t show himself to have much range beyond what I’ve already seen him play in other productions, and I found his performance to be a little “one-note.”
On the other hand, I very much appreciated seeing a film that recreated an era that doesn’t seem to be put on the screen often enough. The period leading up to, and including, World War I seems often to be overlooked on the silver screen so I was quite pleased to see a film that made a concerted effort of bring this time to life. The film is grand and epic in scope, recreating the swath of this man’s life. It’s also a film that captures some of the horror, wonder, and excitement of an Englishman exploring the new world during this time.
At the same time that it has this epic quality, Percy’s story is, in some respects, somewhat limited. When you get right down to it, his largest accomplishment, beyond surviving a hazardous journey, is the fact that he sat down and talked to indigenous people in the Amazon instead of simply treating them as savages. He didn’t pick up their customs and come back to England with a wealth of new information to share. He simply made the audacious step of talking to native tribes as if they were people.
In the end, The Lost City of Z is a likeable but flawed movie. It’s lush and captures an era that’s rarely filmed. It also captures the wonder and excitement from an “age of discovery” while also showing the accompanying horrors and impact on indigenous peoples. However, it could have used a stronger actor as its lead and the story itself is somewhat limited. It’s a tale of Englishmen traveling down the Amazon, not as much a tale about the lives of the people they encounter.
Rating: 3 and a half stars
Based on author David Grann’s nonfiction bestseller, The Lost City of Z tells the incredible true story of British explorer Percy Fawcett (Charlie Hunnam), who journeys into the Amazon at the dawn of the 20th century and discovers evidence of a previously unknown, advanced civilization that may have once inhabited the region. Despite being ridiculed by the scientific establishment who regard indigenous populations as “savages,” the determined Fawcett — supported by his devoted wife (Sienna Miller), son (Tom Holland) and aide-de-camp (Robert Pattinson) — returns time and again to his beloved jungle in an attempt to prove his case, culminating in his mysterious disappearance in 1925. An epically scaled tale of courage and passion, told in writer/director James Gray’s classic filmmaking style, The Lost City of Z is a stirring tribute to the exploratory spirit and a conflicted adventurer driven to the verge of obsession.
Starring: Charlie Hunnam, Sienna Miller, Tom Holland, Robert Pattinson
Directed By: James Gray
Written for the Screen By: James Gray
Based on the Book By: David Grann