- The Lost City of Z (2017)
Based on a true story from David Grann, the film is the depiction of the story of Colonel Percival Fawcett, who once enchanted by the Amazonian forest becomes obsessed with the idea of finding “the city of Z”. Initially, the hero agrees to travel to South America only because it will boost his rankings and help him to “get an order”, but as he discovers the signs he might be en route to a lost civilisation, he thinks only of finding the sumptuous El Dorado of his dreams.
Playing on the well-known themes of the adventure of the lifetime (albeit repeated, unless you take it a bit more literally), the film charms us visually – it certainly boasts the masterful execution, that can be seen in the middle of the jungle as much as in the trenches of the Western front. It also seasons it with the thick plot of fascinating and frightening discoveries: from a cannibal tribe to arrows flying over the explorers’ heads, the film’s got it all.
But what The Lost City of Z does excellently is depicting the reality of the times. We start in the Edwardian era, to go through until the period of the First World War, and the years that followed. And it’s not just merely the costumes and the language, but the atmosphere, too; the lack of opportunities for women and the appreciation of their work, no matter how crucial it is, to the crème de la crème in the Royal Geological Society that thinks as a collective rather than a group of individuals who truly strive for progress. The attitudes towards “the savages” and the colonial mindset are also articulated during a handful of conversations. If we’re talking about getting the gist of the beginning of the twentieth century, the film explores different socio-political attitudes and life outlooks wonderfully.
The ideologies here are strongly attached to faces. Sienna Miller is a fiercely compelling voice of this film: when her husband refuses to take her on the expedition, she firmly refuses and questions the idea of partnership that they both believe in. However, she’s supportive and loving, too – she supports her husband in research, even if her finding are quickly discredited by self-absorbed gentlemen of her partner’s circle. And she really feeds off the emotions in scenes with Charlie Hunnam, too, which helps us understand Fawcett’s obsession from another perspective that adds so much to the picture. Robert Pattinson’s supporting role of a thoughtful gentleman who’s nothing but phlegmatic in the high-adrenaline situations shouldn’t go unnoticed, too – he’s a welcome contrast to the protagonist.
Hunnam’s Fawcett undergoes a massive transformation: from a man who takes up a mission to rise in the society to an explorer who isn’t afraid to oppose his fellow colleagues. But at the heart of it, a couple of things stay the same: his leader style that takes care of his teammates and the belief that he’s capable of discovering something great. His trips to South America filled with a variety of surprises, from the opera in the middle of the Amazonian forest to the remains of the clay pots which signal that there might be a civilisation out there, and Hunnam steers through them efficiently. And even if life throws him curveballs that force him to take a step back, his fascination only grows – which has been shown in his conversations with others, first and foremost.
Due to the nature of the story, however, the film feels a little bit repetitive. It certainly can be read in two ways: the main character is determined, and the circumstances don’t always allow him to do what he dreams of, so he stays persistent and looks for ideas like a self-made man from the previous decades. However, sometimes it feels a little bit tiring: it’s as if you picked up The Heart of Darkness, decided that you’ve got to stop reading in the middle, and forgot which page you were on, so you start all over again. There are also a couple of unexplored topics that are thrown at the audience as little nuggets of information – one of the first things I wanted to do after the screening was to find out what Fawcett’s father did. But I guess that is a good thing.
Well-produced and adorned with superb performances from the cast, the story has the space to take off and draw you in. It slows down a little later but compensates with the character portraits – until the last minute of the flick. Even if its repetitiveness makes it a little bit monotonous, it will still be a good watch for the fans of the genre.
The Lost City of Z opens on Friday, the 24th of March.