The Lost City Of Z Review

The Plot

Real Life British explorer Major Percival Fawcett sets out to secure the glory he desperately needs to advance his career by undertaking a long and dangerous expedition to chart the remotest regions of the Amazon during the perilous dawn of the 20th century. While doing so he believes he may have found a mysterious ancient city, leading to a lifelong obsession and a relentless quest for discovery.

The Good

Sons of Anarchy star Charlie Hunnam delivers a leading man performance that is earnestly British and physically intense. After many years of playing Americans he reclaims his native accent without much difficulty. He also prove more than a match physical for the arduous task of surviving remote jungles, dangerous rapids and the battlefields of world war one. His Major Fawcett is a credible depiction of what it genuinely means to be a true ‘explorer’, rather just an Indiana Jones style fantasy figure.

Around Hunnam a strong supporting cast of familiar faces keep the film watchable in spite of its occasionally languid pace. As major Fawcett’s fiercely supportive but outspoken wife Sienna Miller continues to prove her talents extend well beyond a being just another pretty face.  She manages to ensure that with relatively modest screen time Major Fawcett’s family life back home remains something to yearn for and fight to return to.

Miller manages to avoid too many heavy handed clichés whilst illustrating the frustrations of being an enlightened woman during a more repressive era.  She also serves a useful narrative purpose on behalf of the audience in directly confronting Major Fawcett about his potentially selfish addiction to adventure and the glory of discovery.

Spider-Man star and BAFTA winner Tom Holland is a competent fit for Major Fawcett’s young son, caught somewhere between hero worship and frustrated abandonment for his often absent father.

Finally Robert Pattinson delivers an understated and virtually unrecognisable performance as Fawcett’s sharp shooting travel companion. Hidden beneath a rugged full beard and jungle dirt Pattinson manages to fully shed increasingly distant memories of his pretty Twilight adolescence.  The young British star has systematically built a credible dramatic reputation beyond the hysterical screaming of young adult fiction fans. While light in dialogue his performance exudes convincing wilderness weary qualities.

Perhaps most significantly the convincing comradeship between Hunnam and Pattinson’s characters is a crucial part of making Fawcett’s yearn to explore and push the limits of human survival actually make some emotional sense.

The Bad

Those anticipating or even hoping for something approximating Indiana Jones dodging snakes and poisoned darts on his way to the temple of doom will no doubt find the grim realities of actual expeditions to be considerably less fantastical and fun. Though there is undoubtedly a genuine sense of peril at times, there simply aren’t any moments of escapist joy.

During what turns out to be an ever growing series of life threatening expeditions, Fawcett often finds himself openly questioning why he persist is abandoning his wife and young children for such a seemingly foolish and almost suicidal pursuit.  Unfortunately as the film progresses it’s a question that audiences may find harder to ignore themselves.

In the shadow of world war atrocities and with the promise of a perfectly idyllic life at home it may be hard for many people to understand what really drives Fawcett to keep going back to the edge of civilization. In a modern era of google maps and sat navs it will be especially hard for younger audiences to comprehend what the lure of blank spaces on the map and the true unknown could possibly be.

The Ugly Truth

The Lost City Of Z is a reverential homages to a largely forgotten bygone spirit of exploration at a time when the world was still full of dangerous mysteries worthy of risking life and limb for. Though the film looks and feels authentic this may not satisfy audiences hoping for more fantastical or fun adventures.

Review by Russell Nelson

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