The Lost City of Z – A Safe, Engaging Adventure Film

For some reason, I cannot see Charlie Hunnam as anyone other than Jax Teller from Sons of Anarchy (a great show BTW). He is starting to get away from that in the last couple of years with some decent films but hasn’t broken out just yet. This one may very well be that film.

Synopsis: During an expedition in the Amazon in 1906, British explorer Percy Fawcett grows obsessed with finding a lost city that could be the key to understanding the origins of human civilization. Over the next two decades, he returns to the Amazon multiple times in the hope of unearthing its location. (Rovi)

Starring: Charlie Hunnam, Robert Pattinson, and Sienna Miller

Writer: James Gray

Director: James Gray

Rating: PG-13

Running Time: 141mins

Trailer: 

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As long as there have been films, there have been films about explorers and exploring. What sets this one apart is that is about a British explorer named Percy Fawcett (Hunnam) who becomes obsessed with finding a lost civilization within the Amazon. Despite several failures and constant ridicule from his peers, Fawcett remained perseverant.

In terms of storytelling, the film was rather straightforward. There wasn’t particularly anything new here in how it dramatized Fawcett’s life and his family, including his wife Nina (Miller) and his son Jack (Tom Holland as the older version), as well as his various adventures. The film took a more well-rounded approach with Fawcett’s life in depicting his military life as well as his family life which made the film go by slowly at times.

Fawcett’s expeditions were the best part of the film. They had their fair share of drama, however, they could have gone much further with them generally playing a little too safe. They were fun to watch as they traveled through lush, colorful wilderness while searching for civilization. The cinematography was beautiful, giving the film an immersive feel. These scenes were where Fawcett was at his best, alongside his partner Henry Costin (Pattinson). Their chemistry, although they did not get as much time together as they should have, made these scenes more bearable.

What broke up the expedition scenes was Fawcett’s family drama. Nina and Percy were very close and supported each other. Nina valued her independence and was more of a feminist during a time which predated feminism. The film could have gone further with this and making her more than just the supportive wife at home type. Fawcett’s motivation for these expeditions was to restore his family’s reputation. This did not go unnoticed, however, as his constant absences grew resentment between him and Jack, leading to some redemption during their final expedition but more focus on this relationship would have had a greater impact.

What had the potential to be a boring biopic was elevated by all the performances. Hunnam was excellent, in his best role yet, as the ambitious, perseverant Fawcett. His journey throughout the film was compelling to watch, bringing energy and passion to the role. We see him start off with dreams and is subsequently beaten down and gains maturity by growing up over the course of the film. He showed this growing up by adding subtle differences to his character over that time.

Pattinson was unrecognizable as Costin. He was good although a little too subdued of a character though he still had great chemistry with Hunnam in limited opportunities. Miller was excellent at playing a strong character with great chemistry with Hunnam but wasn’t given as much of an opportunity to shine. Holland was also good in limited screen time and also had great chemistry with Hunnam.

Overall, this was a beautiful, engaging historical adventure that perhaps played things a little too safely when it came to storytelling but was elevated by all the performances, especially that of Charlie Hunnam.

Score: 8/10

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4 thoughts on “The Lost City of Z – A Safe, Engaging Adventure Film

  1. Nice review Keith. And same here, I can’t take Charlie Hunnam seriously in anything after SOA. I just see him as a Jax Teller pretending to be other people.

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