The Lost City of ZBerlin Film Festival 2017
The Lost City of Z tells the true story of Percival Fawcett (Charlie Hunnam), a young major who is driven by ambition and a desire to explore. His initial journey, in 1910, to the Amazon is purely colonial: he must trace the border between Bolivia and Brazil to determine who gets the best land. He becomes obsessed with the idea of a lost city, deep in the heart of the jungle, that hides the traces of a civilisation older than Britain. He returns to the Amazon time and time again to look for it but struggles to maintain his role as a father and a soldier at the same time.
The story takes the form of an episodic novel offering a rich plethora of detail and an ebb and flow pace that follows the protagonist as he keeps returning to the jungle. This long, meandering style of storytelling has a timeless quality to it, the epic cinematography pulls inspiration from Classic Hollywood and offers some stunning set pieces.
However, director James Gray’s commitment to classical realism is so extreme that The Lost City of Z feels like colonial propaganda at points. The British empire at the time was infallible and wide-reaching and Fawcett embodies the ideal Edwardian man, an all-too perfect specimen. Hunnam is an admirable lead, his performance giving new meaning to stiff upper lip. Over the course of three decades, his character doesn’t really develop or reveal any hidden complexity. He has a one-track mind and over the course of 140 minutes, the audience is left hungry for something more.
Sienna Miller provides the emotional core as the soldier’s wife, enduring and raising the family on her own as her husband explores the Amazon and fights in the trenches at the Somme. Robert Pattinson delivers a stoic but charming performance as Fawcett’s sidekick, Mr Costin.
What distinguishes Gray’s latest film from its more complex predecessors is its classicism; there is little or no moral or narrative ambiguity or even conflict between the characters. Fawcett faces fierce opposition from the Royal Geographic society but he wins them over quickly with his manly endeavours.
The Lost City of Z is a rich, compelling adventure that is only let down by its simple hero. Despite their clumsiness, the domestic scenes are redeemed by the sumptuous cinematography and breathtaking depictions of the Amazon.
The Lost City of Z is released nationwide on 24th March 2017.
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