Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Review of THE LOST CITY OF Z: Enigmatic Expedition

July 3, 2017

There have been a number of period films about Caucasian exploration in the Amazon wilderness. A couple of them have remarkable credentials. "The Mission" (Roland Joffe, UK, 1986) about Jesuit missionaries working among the natives in the year 1750. This won the Palm D'Or in Cannes and an Oscar for Best Cinematography. "Embrace of the Serpent" (Ciro Guerra, Colombia, 2016) is about a native shaman and his travels with a German in 1909 and then an American in 1940. This won the Art Cinema Award at the Director's Fortnight in Cannes and was nominated for an Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film. 

This new film written and directed by James Gray (based on the non-fiction novel of David Grann) follows the adventures of British explorer Col. Percy Fawcett, who in 1906 went on an expedition to South America to survey the border conflict between Brazil and Bolivia. With his crew composed of Henry Costin, Arthur Manley and their native guide Tadjui, Fawcett was successful against all the odds they faced. 

Before they left, Fawcett found some pieces of pottery in the middle of the forest which he considered as proof of a hidden city of advanced culture as hinted by his guide, which he called Z (pronounced as "Zed"). Even as he faced disbelief back in Britain, and encountered strain in his relationships with his wife Nina and eldest son Jack, the search for this Lost City of Z would be his obsession for the remainder of his life.

Charlie Hunnam had been in show business since he was 17 years old getting his first break in 1999 on British TV in a show called "Queer as Folk". He then transitioned to films, getting supporting roles in acclaimed films like "Cold Mountain" (2003) and "Children of Men" (2006). I first knew him when he played the lead in "Pacific Rim" (2013). He also played the title role of "King Arthur" this year, but I have yet to see that one. 

Hunnam is an unexpected choice to play Percy Fawcett for me as I thought he might not be mature enough to play such a serious role. I was wrong. He was totally convincing in his underplayed but sincere performance. He had me rooting for him to succeed in his quest, especially in that scene when he stood firm on his beliefs in the face of ridicule among the fuddy-duddy members of Royal Geographical Society.

Sienna Miller did very well as Fawcett's supportive wife Nina, who was projected to be a feminist of sorts. The scene where she argued that she wanted to go with her husband on his trip may have been a stretch, but Miller was certainly passionate. It was a surprise to see Tom Holland here as the grown-up eldest son Jack Fawcett. Holland, of course, is on the cusp of box-office superstardom for his coming Spider-Man reboot.

Robert Pattinson was quite low-key as he hid behind his thick bushy beard throughout this film playing Fawcett's knowledgeable aide-de-camp and friend Henry Costin. On the other hand, Angus Macfadyen memorably played James Murray, a more senior explorer and biologist proved to be more of a liability than an asset to Fawcett's team, in a most annoying and contemptible egotistical portrayal. It was good to see Ian McDiarmid (best known as Palpatine in "Star Wars" saga) as one of the RGS gentlemen, Sir George Goldie.

Overall, director Gray's approach in telling this story totally immersed me in its fascinating subject matter. It is interesting to see a period film that commented on the inner workings of a supposedly scientific society in Britain during the early 20th century and their high-handed attitudes towards indigenous people in places they "discover" even at that time in history. Those last fifteen minutes of the Fawcett father and son expedition (down to the torch-lit ending I did not see coming) was gripping and surreal. 7/10.


  1. It looks like a really touching family film that goes beyond the expedition with every body affected in some way. The cast is also star studded and looks like a good watch.

  2. I haven`t seen much of Robert Pattinson in films since The Twilight Saga. This seems like a great movie which also tells some history.

    ❀ Grace ❀

  3. I've been so outdated with movies that I didn't know a movie like this came out! I'm not familiar with any of the actors though! :O

  4. I think this movie is good such that it pulls you in and along. Well directed, it's a rare kind of contemporary classic with actions depicting adventures.

  5. This is a must see movie. How the lost city is discovered through a remnant of pottery found by the main actor. How I wish I could see this movie for I love solving-puzzle movie, especially on how the solution is being found or remedied in the satisfaction of the movie goers.

  6. I found your review of this film so intriguing that I want to see this one myself. Honestly, after the Raiders of the Lost Ark franchise, I got tired of that concept and stopped paying attention to such films. This I'd like to see.

  7. This seems like a very interesting movie that I should watch! It's interesting that Robert Pattinson is in it, haven't heard much of him of late.