Even though the age of exploration is long since over, it is still something we look back fondly on. The idea of being one of the first few people to either head to the North Pole or into the depths of the jungle is exciting because it’s the truest to life mystery we’ll probably ever see. Maybe there will be a spaceship in Central Africa? You can’t prove that ridiculous statement wrong until you actually go there. So of course films about exploration are always fun and we should always welcome new ones. But is the latest exploration flick, The Lost City of Z, any good?
Percy Fawcett (Charlie Hunnam, Pacific Rim) is sent to Amazon to help Bolivia and Brazil come to terms on a border line to stop the two countries going to war. While in the jungle, Fawcett hears word about a hidden civilization hidden somewhere in the Amazon and he soon becomes obsessed with finding it.
So while The Lost City of Z does have a lot of exploration, the main focus is on the idea that Fawcett gets dangerously obsessed with the idea of this lost civilization, the one he dubs Z. It’s a great idea and could make a great movie. And I will show in this movie that I like it a lot, but unfortunately, it doesn’t really make the most of this idea and fails to put across the idea of this obsession ruining Fawcett’s life. On the expeditions, he is obviously the keenest to get to Z but not to a point where he’s going to get his men killed. Yes, he stays with some cannibals for a while, but his reason is very reasonable and makes sense. And when the expedition obviously can’t go any further because their food is ruined, Fawcett protest against giving up, but he does give up.
I get why The Lost City of Z couldn’t go as far as they needed to to make sure Fawcett’s obsession into the villain of this piece. This is based on a real story so of course, they had to follow the story of what actually happened to him or else risk the historical gods. But it’s one of those movies that end up being hamstrung by having to follow real life events. Either the movie needed to brave and really shake up what happened and risk getting all the abuse or go for a different theme to center the movie around. I’m not familiar with the original story, but surely there was a better angle to go with considering the obsession one doesn’t really work.
It sounds like I dislike The Lost City of Z because of this but everything about the movie is really good, meaning it is still well worth a watch. Firstly, the performances which are top notch. While the movie fails to sell the obsession of Fawcett, Charlie Hunnam certainly does. You do get the feeling from him that he really needs to find the City of Z, with him being especially great in a scene with a Russian psychic during World War I. That sounds less crazy than it is, I assure you. He’s not the only one who does great in this movie. Robert Pattinson (Twilight) proves he is more than just a sparkly vampire as his guide Costin with a great understated performance. His beard is also on point, winning the very competitive battle of facial hair that is going on during this movie.
And the actual exploration of the jungle that goes on during the movie is fantastic. We head into the jungle on three occasions and even though the setting doesn’t change that much each time, it always feels fresh and is the best part of the movie. The jungle looks great and the movie really does a great job at making this seem like it is one of the most dangerous places on Earth. Considering every other person on my Facebook seems to end up in the jungle at some point thanks to the wonder that are gap years, that’s rather impressive.
And even when he heads back to England, things are still good. Yes, there are plenty of weaknesses because plot threads are dropped left, right and center. Fawcett is apparently snubbed in a high society due to a vague thing his ancestor did, but that is forgotten about soon after his first expedition into the Amazon. His son Jack (Tom Holland, Spider-Man: Homecoming) starts to hate his father for being missing all the time, but that all changes in one scene as he soon wants to start exploring with him. But other than that, the home scenes are great. Fawcett’s relationship with his wife Nina (Sienna Miller, Foxcatcher) is brilliant. It feels real, loving but yet there is a tension there because him constantly being away. There’s also some fun at the Royal Geographic Meetings mainly to see the poshest people around act as boorish as football hooligans.
I have been a bit harsh to The Lost City of Z here because despite having quite a few faults, it is a great movie. Charlie Hunnam puts in a fantastic performance to make Fawcett a truly great character to follow around, even if the film doesn’t deliver the material needed to push this movie on to the next level. There’s a lot of greatness in the supporting cast too and it’s nice to see Robert Pattinson do something good and prove himself. Yes, the movie could have been a lot better if it was reworked, but it’s still a great movie to watch.