The Lost City of Z (M)

In a Word: Fascinating

The Lost City of Z

Theatrical release poster.

A film based on the extraordinary life of early 20th century British explorer’s Percy Fawcett’s obsessive quest for a lost civilisation in the Amazon, The Lost City of Z manages to keep its head while allowing the strength of the story to speak for itself.

Written and directed by James Gray (The Yards), the story tells of how, despite the outright opposition he faced among many in the scientific community – including among those within the Royal Geographic Society - back in Britain, Fawcett pursued his life’s ambition to redeem his family’s name against the hardships the jungle posed and the cost it came to him – yes, professionally, but even more so on a personal level.

Charlie Hunnam (best known for his role in Sons of Anarchy) is a good choice for Fawcett (he apparently got the role after Benedict Cumberbatch pulled out), managing to capture Fawcett’s intensity without seeming cartoonish and he is ably supported in the role by Sienna Miller (who plays Fawcett’s long-suffering wife Nina) and Robert Pattinson (who plays his right-hand man, Henry Costin).

Tom Holland, meanwhile, plays Jack, Fawcett’s oldest son who has to grapple with his own feelings about the father who was absent for so much of his life.

There have been criticisms about the historical accuracy of the film (including that it overlooks some of the flaws the character of a man who, modern Amazon explorer John Hemming of Canada says, was a bit like the “Eddie the Eagle” of Amazon explorers) but if you can put that aside, this provides an interesting insight into the days when so much of the world was still yet to be mapped and the costs paid by those who filled in the blanks.

The power of the film, which features some beautiful cinematography, is not so much in its events - while dramatic, they’re presented in a somewhat understated way – but in the swirl of inter-personal relationships which surrounds them. 

The film is long but manages to keep the audience engaged throughout - although it ends with a whimper rather than a bang. That said, it’s a fascinating story, well told.