UK Release Date: 24th March 2017
Runtime: 141 minutes
Director: James Gray
Writer: James Gray
Starring: Charlie Hunnam, Sienna Miller, Robert Pattinson, Tom Holland, Angus Macfadyen, Franco Nero, Ian McDiarmid
Synopsis: A driven soldier turns explorer when he travels into the Amazon jungle and uncovers what he believes is evidence of a lost civilisation never before seen by white men.
Big, sweeping adventure movies don’t often get made with British stars these days, so The Lost City of Z seemed like a very interesting prospect on paper. For starters, they were actually pronouncing the letter “Z” correctly – Brad Pitt, take note. The huge historical tale of a driven adventurer exploring the depths of the Amazon jungle spans decades of time and it certainly feels epic in scope, not least because it runs to almost two and a half hours. However, once the gorgeous vistas have been shown a couple of times, the intrigue soon dries up.
Percy Fawcett (Charlie Hunnam) is a colonel in the British Army handed the opportunity to head into the Amazon jungle in order to catalogue and map uncharted land. He leaves behind his wife Nina (Sienna Miller) and ventures into the rainforest with Corporal Henry Costin (Robert Pattinson) at his side. After an initial expedition yields some unusual findings, Percy decides to take up a new expedition into the jungle in the hope of tracking down a lost civilisation that he believes he can find. He brings ageing geographical society member James Murray (Angus Macfadyen) along for the ride.
There’s undoubtedly a real beauty to The Lost City of Z, which spends plenty of time indulging itself with the lush green foliage of the sun-dappled jungles that were the epicentre of Fawcett’s exploration. It’s in these scenes that writer-director James Gray is able to really spread his wings and produce something that feels genuinely artful. Unfortunately, it just goes on for considerably too long. The film is very pleased with itself and very sure of its own prestige credentials – certainty that proves to be somewhat misplaced. It’s a movie that is sumptuous, but slight.
The Lost City of Z has a story that traverses generations of history, but never seems to arrive at any sort of character depth. Its wilderness scenes go on for far too long and a bizarre First World War interlude seems ill-fitting, but the most damning thing is how little insight we get into what makes Charlie Hunnam’s protagonist tick. Hunnam proves to be entirely charisma-free in the lead role and, the longer we spend with him, the less interesting he seems to become. Sienna Miller is far more exciting as his long-suffering wife and the story from her point of view would have almost certainly been more compelling.
Gray simply fails to rein in the excesses of the story. He could have really benefited from a strict editor willing to slice apart some of the lengthier scenes of water dripping on leaves. The director is also slavish to the real story of Percy Fawcett, right up to the enigmatic finale that leaves the film infuriatingly bereft of the storyline pay-off it so despereately needed to send the audience home happy.
It’s sad that The Lost City of Z is a film that is almost entirely free of thematic ideas. It conducts itself with the grace of a dense and involved prestige picture, but has the plot of an indulgent indie movie and lacks more than one or two characters with a germ of personality to rub together.
Pop or Poop?
James Gray conjures up an array of incredibly pretty images in The Lost City of Z, but he’s unable to follow through on that with a story and characters that justify the painterly visual style. The resulting film is something of a snooze – and one that seems to stretch endlessly into the abyss.
Do you agree with my review? Let me know in the comments section.