The Lost City Of Z, 2016.
Directed by James Gray.
Starring Charlie Hunnam, Tom Holland, Sienna Miller, Robert Pattinson, and Angus Macfadyen.
A true-life drama, centering on British explorer Col. Percival Fawcett, who disappeared while searching for a mysterious city in the Amazon in the 1920s.
Bringing to mind the grand, opulence of the cinematic epics of yesteryear, The Lost City of Z is a miraculous, rare piece of filmmaking that aches with emotion and overflows with stirring profundity. It’s a jubilant triumph rich in treasure, so substantial in its grandiose themes that for it to truly be unpacked, it would take a trip to the titular Zed and a lengthy stay. Bring your suitcase; you’re in for the long haul.
Told over 20 years, through wars and expeditions, through births and deaths, director James Gray has woven a tale decadently rich and sumptuous. Before returning to the more welcome shores of Guy Ritchie “ladisms,” Charlie Hunnam puts in a mighty, complex performance as Percy Fawcett, a member of the British army struggling with the actions of his deceased drunken, gambler of a father.
An opportunity to reclaim his name arises when the head of the Royal Geographical Society (played with an uptight regency by Ian McDiarmid) asks Fawcett to resolve a trivial land dispute between the Brazilians and the Bolivians. He takes this offer, aware he will leave his wife Nina (Sienna Miller at a career high) and newborn son Jack for two years. Joining him on his voyage is Henry Costin (Robert Pattinson), his drunken aide-de-camp.
Seemingly reaching a dead-end, Fawcett makes a discovery, which lays basis for his theory of the “City of Zed,” a civilisation long lost that he believes may piece together the puzzle of humanity. Upon returning to London and after a brief celebration heralding his return, he is laughed out of the jingoistic, wholly racist Royal Society who believe these tribes to be little more than “savages.”
On further travels to unchartered lands, this lost city haunts his dreams. Whilst at home with his wife and son, he appears distracted, the call of the jungle ever echoing. Even as he fights once more through the trenches of Somme, the dense heat of the South American jungle calls for him. That first journey, perilous it may have been, evolves into something almost religious.
That call echoes over 20 years and reverberates through his son Jack (played by a brilliant Tom Holland), who now a young adult, hopes to venture alongside his father and discover Zed. This third chapter finds the film at its most delicate, evolving into a stunningly moving study of the dynamics between father and son.
A moment early on, as Fawcett and Costin venture further into the wilderness and happen upon a wooden concert hall brings to mind the hysterical derangement of Herzog’s Fitzcarraldo whilst the fingerprints of his masterwork Aguirre, the Wrath of God can be seen on each palatial frame.
Everything about the film exudes a lavish affluence: the glacial, almost luxurious pacing, DP Darius Khondji’s ravishing cinematography, it’s all a treasure trove of riches.
There’s an undeterred charm to Hunnam’s performance. His Fawcett is a clear man of his times-his sexual politics errs towards chauvinism at certain points-but he is all courtesy, top-button-done-up politeness. Watching Hunnam and Pattinson bounce off once another is a thing to behold.
The Lost City of Z is to be studied and studied, torn apart, analysed, every frame broken down. It’s a survivor of a time long gone yet it avoids the hostility of those it aims to replicate. The call of Zed echoes, and it only amplifies louder.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★