As the story goes Director James Gray wrote to Francis Ford Coppola, who directed Apocalypse now (1979) asking for advice about shooting in the jungle. Coppola’s two-word reply was simple “Don’t Go”. Unlike our main character in this beautifully shot story, Gray must have realised the perils and obstacles he was going to face making this film, from the sweeping English countryside to the amazon jungle, shooting in 35mm gives this story a beautiful old cinematic feel and it works! When watching this film in the comfort of your seat, you feel the heat and humidity of the jungle, the eeriness of the unknown in the dark, the disturbing peace of the river and luckily the rest bite and safety of the countryside.
“The Lost City of Z” based on author David Grann’s nonfiction bestseller tells the incredible true story of British explorer Percy Fawcett (Charlie Hunnam, Pacific Rim, King Arthur: legend of the sword) who is brilliant as the charming Fawcett, harking back to the old heroes of Hollywood. Fawcett is an army man who is trying to bring honour back to his family name. The opportunity presents itself when asked by the Royal Geographic Society to map out the amazon. Teaming up with a drunken Henry Costin (Robert Patterson, Twilight,) who is unrecognisable with beard and glasses provides some funny moments and has defiantly matured as an actor. Fawcett begins his journey though Brazil traveling up the amazon. On the way they come across disease, death and cannibalistic tribes. Fawcett hears stories of the fabled Eldorado that peak his interest, but it is not until he stumbles across some significant finds that Fawcett’s imagination and mind are truly opened. This begins the obsession that will take over his life, it will impact his career and his home life, leaving behind his wife Nina (Sienna Miller, Live by Night) who gives a great performance as the strong independent wife, when she is left to bring up the children. Oldest child Jack Fawcett, (Tom Holland, Spiderman: Homecoming) who has a passing resemblance to Jamie Bell, is never given enough screen time for his character to really grow, however this is the story of ‘one’ man’s obsession.
“The Lost City of Z” shows how deep a person can go in the percyuit (pun intended) of proving that a belief is real against other nonbelievers, when Fawcett is lambasted and laughed at for suggesting that an advanced civilization could have existed in such a remote part of the world by savages it only solidifies his resolve into finding evidence. The film only covers three of Fawcett’s expeditions to the amazon, which span a total of 20 years from 1906 – 1925.
The Cast are all brilliant, James Murray (Angus Macfadyen, Braveheart) is great and like a lot of the insects that are buzzing around the amazon gets nicely under your skin. Grays Direction was beautiful and it shows he has a flair for the romance and adventure of the 1900’s.
Although “the Lost City of Z” is not by any means perfect, obsession has always been a good vehicle in films and very much works in this one, just watch out when the film finishes you don’t get to obsessed with trying to find out what happened, as sometimes in life we all need a bit of mystery.
By Chris Lonsdale