THE LOST CITY OF Z (2017)

  • Release Date: 21/04/2017
  • Cast: Charlie Hunnam, Robert Pattinson, Sienna Miller, Tom Holland, Edward Ashley, Angus Macfadyen
  • Director: James Gray

Percy Fawcett’s story comes breathtakingly to life with James Gray’s art and David Grann’s facts…

Percy Harrison Fawcett was a British geographer, artillery officer, cartographer, archaeologist, and explorer of South America. Fawcett disappeared in 1925 along with his eldest son, Jack, and one of Jack’s friends, Raleigh Rimmel during an expedition to find an ancient lost city which he and others believed existed in the jungles of Brazil. Fawcett called this city “Z”

David Grann is an American journalist, a staff writer for The New Yorker Magazine, and a best-selling author. Grann’s interest was quipped about Fawcett as he learned more about him and his astonishing beliefs about the Lost City of Z and the proofs that he had to back it up. Thus, after 80 years of his disappearance, Grann set out to retrace Fawcett’s step and find out what happened to the man and his expedition. He came up with his own theories on the matter and published a book titled “The Lost City Of Z”

The Lost City of Z is based on the book of the same title by David Grann. As the film begins, we see Percy Fawcett (Charlie Hunnam) undertake a rather difficult hunt in which he is able to hunt down the prey. Percy must have got a chair along with the elite as a reward for hunting down the prey, but he is denied the same for his father’s gambling and drinking legacy which has left a bad name for his family. Percy is evidently sad about it but has to bear the brunt of the insult. Soon he gets an opportunity to redeem his family name when the Royal Geographical Society (RGS) requests his services to map the borders between Brazil, Columbia, and Bolivia in the Amazon. Percy completes and comes back home to everything that he ever wanted for himself and his family. However, during the mission, he comes across proof that instills in him a sense of belief that a civilization might have existed in the Amazonia that may just predate his own civilization.

When he expresses his views on the matter in the company of his peers, he is met with indignation and ridicule. However, there are a few who believe him and one of them is his RGS compatriot James Murray (Angus Macfadyen). Soon Murray collaborates with Fawcett and his team to undertake another expedition that doesn’t end well for them. Fawcett returns to England to find the country in the midst of a war that he cannot escape. He does his bit in the war. Years later, at the behest of his son Jack (Tom Holland) —-who has grown up now and wants to see his father achieve the glory that he deserves—- Fawcett decides to undertake one final expedition to find his Lost City of Z. The rest, as they say, is history.

Unlike many others who found this film average, I found The Lost City of Z mesmerizing and captivating. I must admit that there isn’t a lot happening in the film. We see Percy undertake three expeditions and the feel in all these three expeditions is similar. That, however, was never an issue for me as the happening was choreographed so well and the performances were so on point that it gave me chills to see the men labor their way through the Amazon. I had no idea about Percy and his expeditions and every time he was on a mission, I thought that it might just be his last. Thus, things became more nerve-wracking for me. It might have been an easy inclination to show Percy experience something extraordinary that made him believe the existence of the City of Z but the director firmly keeps the discoveries subtle and rather close to reality. This is bound to make some unhappy but for me, it was one of the aspects of the film that I loved the most. The realism associated with the story was unquestionable. The director also includes some very important details that are key to the story and he does so in a very subtle albeit intelligent manner.

The bulk of the heavy lifting of the film’s acting is done by Charlie Hunnam and it is no surprise that he has to do it since he is present in almost every scene of the film. This is Percy Fawcett’s story and James Gray seems to be in as much awe of the character as David Grann was when he undertook the perilous mission to Amazon to find out about the man. Hunnam got the role after multiple actors turned it down but he has done a fantastic job with it. I just loved how wonderfully he is shown maintaining his composure and Englishman manners and poise even when he finds himself amid cannibals. His temper hardly soars and even when faced with certain death he doesn’t budge. These are some of the most definitive traits of his character that make him so likable. However, at home, he is a different person altogether. He loses his head and slaps his son, has fights with his wife but at the same time looks at her in a way that makes it clear how much he loves her. These things contribute to making his character real and likable and Hunnam does a fantastic job of getting the character just right. We connect with him and what to see which way his story progresses.

Three other actors deserve mention here. Sienna Miller as Fawcett’s wife Nina has a well-defined character. For once she is not just the longing and dotting wife but comes into her won every time, we get to see her face her husband or for that matter the men-dominated English society. She complains as freely about the atrocious women wear that the men have decided for the women to wear as she does for not being allowed to stand with her husband on the stage during his address. I also loved the way they culminated her act. Robert Pattinson is barely recognizable as Fawcett’s compatriot Mr. Costin but is terrific in some of the scenes that the director saved for him to shine. He is a screen stellar and he proves that numerous times through his essay in the film. I loved Angus Macfadyen as one of the only antagonists in the film. He too has a small role, but you hate him for what he does and the fact that he is able to extract such pure hatred and disgust from the viewer proves how well he has essayed his character.

The cinematography of the film is stunning. It isn’t difficult to imagine such a scenario owing to the subject matter and the setting of the film but it must be noted that for beauty to find its way to the screen the cinematographer had to have the eye and penchant for it and know exactly how to bring to the screen. For that and a lot more, Darius Khondji deserves a lot of praise. He had previously worked on stunning visual fairs like Seven, Armor and Midnight in Paris but this was different in all aspects from what he had to deal with in those films. He has done exceptional work here. The editing by John Axelrad and Lee Haugen is in strong keeping with the temperamental mood and pacing of the film. It may feel a bit slow for many but that for me elevated the feel and impact of the film. The production design and the art direction of the film cannot be ignored as without them this film would have surely fallen short of its mark. I might not have much idea about the era this film is set in, but I haven’t seen anyone raise a finger about its artwork or production designs.

Final words. The Lost City of Z is a dreamy and highly affecting film that is bound to play on in your minds long after the viewing is over. It is about a man and a subject that has a lot of mystery and intrigue surrounding it and that is also a strong reason that is going to make this film interesting for many. Strong performances, great visuals, realism, and a great final payoff are some of the other reasons that will make you like this film if you are willing to give it a chance.

Rating: 4/5 (4 out of 5 Stars)

 

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