I must confess I was not familiar with Percy Fawcett of England. Born in 1867, he would become a geographer, artillery officer, cartographer, archeologist and explorer. In The Lost City of Z, Percy Fawcett (Charlie Hunnam) is an officer who seems to think his best years are behind him. Never getting the recognition or the accolades he feels he deserves, he accepts an impossible assignment; map out the countries of Brazil and what would become Bolivia via the Amazon. This was in the early 1900’s and most of those territories were largely unexplored by anyone other than the indigenous people that were born there. Reluctantly, he accepts the assignment thinking this would be the journey that would get him the recognition he is deserving. It will be a long journey of about two or three years, but in the end, it will be worth it, or so he thinks. Off he goes with his fellow surveyor, Henry Costin (Robert Pattinson).
When in Brazil, the two encounter all sorts of life-depriving entities. Piranas, snakes, fever, malaria and hostile natives are all ready to take a bite out of the explorers. But when Fawcett and his crew head up the Verde River to find its source, they make a remarkable discovery which indicates a lost civilization. Fawcett is ecstatic. If only he could find this civilization, Zed or Z as it was called (now, it is El Dorado), he would be world renowned and finally get the recognition he feels he deserves. But this is a large undertaking and by the time he has made at least two trips back to Amazonia, World War I is in full swing and Fawcett is sent to the front. There he is injured and the chances of him being able to make another trip through Amazonia is unlikely. That is until his oldest son, Jack (Tom Holland) says he would be willing to go, as well.
I will stop there in regards to the plot because to reveal more will ruin the film for those wanting to see it. Needless to say, if you are interested there is a cornucopia of information on Percy Fawcett so you can find out all about him if you choose. Charlie Hunnam impressed me earlier this year with his performance in Guy Ritchie’s King Arthur: Legend of the Sword a surprisingly fresh take on an old subject. In The Lost City of Z, Hunnam shows he can hold the screen captive with his portrayal of Percy Fawcett. Mr. Hunnam demonstrates he can handle big, sprawling and weighty films like The Lost City of Z. His performance is fascinating and the story behind Percy Fawcett is amazing.
The supporting cast is also very strong. Even Robert Pattinson, who has not been very impressive in anything, turns in a subtle, yet impressive performance as Fawcett’s long time and loyal friend. Costin is an observantly honest man who may not believe there is a lost city but goes along anyway out of friendship to Fawcett. Sienna Miller turns what usually is an empty and thankless role as The Wife into an interesting and sympathetic character. She is tired of being left alone to raise their children while her husband is galavanting around the globe, but she understands why. Tom Holland is Fawcett’s eldest son, Jack, who hates his father at first for “abandoning” them but they reconcile when Percy is wounded in World War I. Although we don’t see Tom Holland for the first ninety minutes or so, Mr. Holland shows himself to be a mature actor with depth and an astute understanding of the characters he plays.
The Lost City of Z was based on the book by David Gann but adapted for the big screen by writer and director James Gray. The transition from page to screen is impressive and Mr. Gray has done a fine job of focusing on Fawcett and what drove him to be the man he became. Gray’s writing and direction along with Hunnam’s performance convey Fawcett as a proud and driven man. Proud, but not haughty. He firmly believes in what he is doing. Gray’s direction makes The Lost City of Z compelling and interesting. Cinematographer Darius Khondji and film score composer Christopher Spelman have created an exotic look and sound in the world of Amazonia.
If I had any problems with this film it is that the pacing sometimes feels a bit too relaxed. Granted it was a slower time back then, but the film’s length of 141 minutes seems a bit too leisurely in spots. I fear some will give up on this film entirely, rather than stick with it. If you do stick with it, I don’t think you will be disappointed. The Lost City of Z is a compelling adventure film about a man whose quest redefined exploration, a man that time has all but forgotten.
The Lost City of Z – **** out of five
The Lost City of Z – Rated PG-13 for violence, partial nudity, language and some gore
The Lost City of Z – Run Time is 141 minutes
The Lost City of Z is now available on DVD, On Demand, subscription services and digital download.