In the early 20th century British explorer Percy Fawcett made eight expeditions into the Amazonian jungle pursuing evidence of a lost, highly evolved civilisation. James Gray’s spectacular film collapses those expeditions into a tidier history, but the enquiring spirit of the movie holds closely to the wanderlust of the incurable adventurer. It’s hard to think of another film on such epic scale that contains so careful and nuanced a portrait of the explorer hero or his conflicted relationship with the society that he, in name at least, represents.
Charlie Hunnam’s Fawcett is a commanding slow burn from class resentment to mystic quest, with Robert Pattinson barely recognisable as his companion in adventure. Sienna Miller makes a powerful impression as the wife chaffing to join him but forever left behind. Cinematography by Darius Khondji (Se7en, Delicatessen) captures the seductive allure of jungle and river in ravishing imagery fit only for the giant screen.
“The Lost City of Z is a miraculous movie, at once moving, intimidating, and gorgeous to behold. It’s a tale of colonial exploration that’s aware of the sins of the past, and a portrait of a driven, obsessive, flawed male protagonist that avoids the clichés of the genre. It feels like a work of classic Hollywood cinema, but without the arch, mannered quality that can come with a contemporary director trying to harken back to the past. Gray’s film is beguiling and poetic, capable of gluing you to the screen for every second of its languorous running time and lingering in the brain for weeks after.” — David Sims, The Atlantic