Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Movie Review: "The Lost City of Z" (2017)

Director: James Gray
Rating: PG-13
Running Time: 2 hours, 21 minutes
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Major Percy Fawcett is sent on a cartography expedition to map the border between Brazil and Bolivia. Once there, he discovers what may be the remains of a lost civilization, a discovery that could change everything the Western world thought they knew about the Americas and its indigenous people.

"The Lost City of Z" is written and directed by James Gray, who has previously directed films like "We Own The Night" and "The Immigrant." It is based on the non-fiction book "The Lost City of Z: A Deadly Obsession in the Amazon" by David Grann. It stars Charlie Hunnam as Major Percy Fawcett, a soldier and explorer who led several expeditions into the Amazon, first as a cartographer and then as more of an explorer. He kept returning to the forest time and time again, trying to find proof of what he called 'The Lost City of Zed.' He is joined on multiple expeditions by Henry Costin, played by Robert Pattinson, and Arthur Manley, played by Edward Ashley. He also goes on a particularly difficult expedition with the addition of James Murray, played by Angus Macfadyen, who isn't exactly up to the trip. On another voyage years later in his life, he ventures back to the forests with his eldest son Jack Fawcett, played by Tom Holland. Being away on these various expeditions means leaving behind his wife Nina, played by Sienna Miller, as well as the aforementioned Jack, and his two younger children Brian, played by both Nathaniel Bates Fisher and Daniel Huttlestone at various his ages, and Joan, played by Bethan Coomber.

This film has the makings of what should be an epic adventure. The subject of explorers heading odysseys into the uncharted Amazon should be thrilling at the least and even beautifully emotional at times with so much at stake for characters like Percy Fawcett. Outside of a couple of tense moments with South American natives and an ever-so-short battle scene during Fawcett's time serving in WWI, there is an overall lack of intensity in this project. This movie is shot against a gorgeous jungle backdrop and has some truly breathtaking, fantastic cinematography, but it doesn't have a sense of awe or wonder to it, at least not to us. The emotion doesn't seem to be there. Percy leaves his wife and child/children behind constantly, in search of something greater and bigger than himself: the pursuit of the unknown, and he will not rest until he finds it. Writer/director James Gray tries to build an early resentment between Jack and Percy for his continual absence throughout his entire childhood, but the drama of the situation doesn't fully come through on-screen, making any resolution they have in the future far less powerful.

As Fawcett goes through each expedition, the movie starts to feel more and more like it is just spinning its wheels getting nowhere (technically, it's getting the same place over and over), and what it all leads to winds up feeling rather anticlimactic. The pacing of the movie is very slow, making us feel every minute of its 2 hours and 21 minutes runtime. Luckily, the acting is good enough to keep us from falling asleep during the moments where we feel a lull in the story. Charlie Hunnam (despite his fake-sounding British accent which is not fake at all) and Tom Holland give fine performances, but the standout for us is actually Robert Pattinson, who has come a long way since his "Twilight" days.

From a technical standpoint, this film is a well constructed, but we couldn't help but get "Greystoke: The Legend of Tarzan, Lord of the Apes" vibes from the entire thing. There are some interesting moments sprinkled throughout its run time, it's just the visceral experience that's missing in "The Lost City of Z." We never felt the sense of importance or urgency we should feel for the characters, or if what they are doing is going to have massive importance or a global effect years down the line.

My Rating: 6/10
BigJ's Rating: 6/10
IMDB's Rating: ~7.1/10
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: ~88%
Do we recommend this movie: Sure, why not?

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