The Lost City of Z movie review: This cerebral take on adventure seduces you visually
The Lost City of Z is a more grounded look into how corruptible humans are. It is the kind of smart, cerebral filmmaking that we need more of.
There are very few ways you can go wrong with a story that is about exploration, discovery, and the venture into the unknown. The Lost City of Z, directed by James Gray, is an ambitious piece of filmmaking that succeeds both as an adventure and a solid slice of drama. It’s also incredibly beautiful to look at.
The premise itself is fascinating – back in 1925, a man named Percy Fawcett embarked on an adventure to find an ancient city hidden from the world, which he codenamed ‘Z’. But after he waded into the Amazonian rainforests, he was never seen again. This film offers a look at how Percy (played by Charlie Hunnam) made up his mind to go on such a crazy journey and what went down in the forest as he pursued his dream.
The film is based on David Grann’s book of the same name and it is an astonishing bit of storytelling as we learn Percy’s history as a soldier in the British Army and his addiction to the mysteries of the Amazon basin. Gray navigates through Percy’s journey with a classic filmmaking style, reminding us of an era of movie making gone by. The pacing is slow and deliberate, but never indulgent, as we go deeper into the black hole of hidden secrets, a forgotten civilization and some of the existential problems such a landscape might render to a city dweller.
Cleverly director Gray uses the character of Percy’s wife Nina (Sienna Miller) as the voice of reason, continuously questioning her husband’s choices and madness to undertake such an obviously dangerous journey, whether forsaking everything they have is worth whatever he finds there. But she does this while still being a pillar of support to her husband – a finely crafted balance in character dynamics, which reminded me of the Norwegian film Kon Tiki which also dealt with similar real life subject matter.
It’s obvious that one has to be a bit mad to achieve something impossible, and Hunnam’s Percy is a wonderfully executed character – with genuine glint in his eyes, his reach always exceeding his grasp. Also interesting is the friendship between Percy and his travel companion Henry, played by Robert Pattinson, who continues to prove that the Twilight movies were a waste of his talent.
But the real hero of the film is Darius Khondji’s cinematography which captures the almost hypnotic feeling paradise of the Amazon basin. As the camera winds through the thick forest, it’s easy to be seduced by the landscape, much like how Percy was in real life. It is like a recreation of Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness, and it is mesmerising in both its wonders and horrors.
If last year’s best film, Embrace of the Serpent, was a drug fueled hallucinogenic view of how we have failed as humans by desecrating an ancient civilization with our puerile religious bent, The Lost City of Z is a more grounded look into how corruptible humans are. It is the kind of smart, cerebral filmmaking that we need more of. It is in theaters right now you would be missing something special if you do not get your tickets right away.
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