Restrained and beautiful, The Lost City of Z is a stirring examination of explorer Percy Fawcett’s many quests to find a lost Amazonian city.
While on a survey expedition in the Amazonian jungle, British Officer Percy Fawcett discovers pottery fragments that point toward a lost civilization in the jungle. He names this civilization the “Lost City of Z” and convinces members of the Royal Geographical Society to back another expedition to find Z. Unfortunately, this attempt fails, and Fawcett is thereafter sent to France to fight at the frontlines of WWI. Years later, American interest in Amazonian exploration rekindles Fawcett’s obsession with finding Z. With international funding, he returns to the Amazon again. This round bringing his eldest son Jack with him.
I have a lot of respect for producers and studios that dare attempt stories like The Lost City of Z. It’s like, these are dead-end stories, aren’t they? How do you sustain interest in a story you cannot change the ugly outcome of? How much do you add to or subtract from the tale, without incurring the wrath of historians and surviving family members?
IMO, such challenges are almost always insurmountable.
James Grey’s depiction doesn’t get all these questions right, but for most parts, The Lost City of Z succeeds as a stirring biopic. One that progressively pulls you into the complex psyche of British explorer Percy Fawcett. Much of this is achieved by the movie’s quiet, Nat-Geo documentary-like direction. Which aside from intriguing visuals, also limits emotional involvement and frustration with Fawcett’s failures. There’s also Charlie Hunnam’s splendid portrayal of Fawcett. A performance as thoughtful and as confident as the camerawork. In stoic ways, he brings to life the complexity of a man trapped between family and social duties, and overwhelming personal ambition. It made me very curious to learn more about the real Fawcett after the movie.
If anything, the only aspect that I disliked about The Lost City of Z was the inclusion of metaphysical elements in the latter half. Perhaps this was to soften the inevitable ending, but it feels to me to compromise Fawcett’s initial motivations for locating Z. Personally, I don’t see what’s wrong with him wanting to honour his family name or to advance his stalled military career. Ambition, to me, doesn’t need spiritual endorsement to be worthwhile.
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