Directed by: James Gray
Writers: James Gray (written for the screen by), David Grann (based on the book by)
Starring: Charlie Hunnam, Robert Pattinson, Tom Holland, Sienna Miller and Angus Macfadyen
Runtime: 140 Minutes
Genre: Action, Adventure, Biography
3 Frames out of 5
By: Shari K. Green
The Lost City of Z is based on the popular nonfiction bestseller written by David Grann. It’s about a British soldier and explorer by the name of Percy Fawcett, who’s played by Charlie Hunam (Sons of Anarchy). We start our journey in Ireland in 1905. The opening sequence spectacularly sets up who Fawcett is. He’s a brave marksman and later will be considered a hero but he will do anything to prove he’s worthy and fearless. Fawcett is approached by the Royal Geographical Society (RGS) to survey and explore the Amazon with only a small crew. He knows he has to go to clear his family name; something his father’s drinking has forced him to do. Much to the dismay of his pregnant wife, Nina (Miller), he is actually happy to go, even though the trip will take him from her and their son for two years. Though he will miss his family, he likes earning his way and getting praise for something he knows he’s more competent doing than most. The thought of going into uncharted territory to map the border between Brazil and Bolivia is too big for his ego to pass on but becomes almost too much for even this seasoned explorer to handle.
He travels with, Henry Costin (Pattinson) who encourages him and supports him more than anyone. Costin’s an extremely likable character that, on occasion, looks to the bottle to get him through the rough patches of their jungle travels, such as illness, dodging arrows and cannibals. Fawcett discovers what he believes to be evidence of an unknown civilization; one that’s spoken about by the natives of Amazonia. He believes as they do that there will be many riches if he can go back to London and convince the RGS to finance another expedition. By this time, his wife has had their second child. He’s happy to see her and the children but much more excited about sharing his stories of the deep jungle and what he had encountered while there. Not as interested in family as he is his own name and proving this ancient city does exist, not to mention that only he would be capable of finding it, he must return again… this is now his life’s mission. He and his wife are living two different dreams. His is of exploration and hers is a loving home complete with a mother and a father. She has remained a cooperative spouse to her mostly progressive husband, feeling he has always been there for her but once Zed (Z) comes into the picture, she has all but lost him.
Snobby Englishmen believe the team to be mad, chief among them is James Murray, played by the hefty, out of shape yet skilled actor Angus Macfadyen (Braveheart, Titus), who went all out for this character. Murray insists on traveling with them on their next excursion. Fawcett will not be deterred and agrees to let him go, regretting that decision later. Murray slows them down considerably, not only costing Fawcett and his team precious time but also purposely sabotaging the trip.
When another trip is needed, Costin has met someone he loves more than the labyrinth Fawcett cannot separate himself from. He doesn’t see the point in ever going back. Fawcett knows that what can be found will illuminate the world, yet Costin maintains that what he now has at home does that already. Fawcett’s oldest son, Jack (Tom Holland), goes with him on his final trip. It’s now years later and Miller has a beautiful scene of worry, dread and despair. She expresses every hope and at the same time, all the fears a wife and mother could hold with the realization that maybe the time has come for acceptance.
What I found fascinating with the end of this film, which tells us what her fate was, is that after a moment of contemplation, you come to the conclusion that maybe it wasn’t about finding a certain place for him, but literally leaving another. Keeping you engaged the entire film with stunning visuals; Gray uses the final shot to leave you wondering about that… and saddened with how Nina may have been duped all along.