James Gray / Charlie Hunnam, Sienna Miller, Robert Pattinson, Tom Holland / Action-Drama / 2017 / 15 / 140mins
Let James Gray take you on the perfect mystery-adventure in this unexpectedly grandeur indie film that could well be an early Oscar contender.
Man was born to explore the four corners of the globe, and none more so than Percy Fawcett (Charlie Hunnam). An army man, Fawcett was hired by the British Geological Society to map the Brazil-Bolivia border to prevent a war. On their travels, Fawcett and aide-de-camp Henry Costin (Pattinson) find evidence of a civilisation within the depths of the Amazon, a discovery that convinces Fawcett a lost city remains amongst the tangled vines.
Biopics need great showmanship from the cast, and Lost City of Z is in no short supply of acting talent. Hunnam isn’t particularly outstanding in the lead role – his posh Brit accent is oddly put-on – but slight faults do little to smother the otherwise straightforward descent into obsessive madness (you know, the usual life stuff). It’s more in what Hunnam physically conveys that’s convincing. He develops a clearly driven man in Fawcett, but lacks an emotional payoff, especially with Miller (who, as wife Nina, is nigh on perfect). A satire of early 20th century attitudes to women? I don’t think that’s the intention.
Pattinson is on course for an Oscar nomination. Fully embodying Costin, evidence of method acting in tow, Pattinson seems to be evoking a change of tune a la Matthew McConaughey and the pinnacle himself, Mr Heath Ledger. In a word, he is captivating. He provides so much depth from so little screen time.
What makes Gray’s work technically sublime is the inclusion of multiple genres. His composure to handle it all under two hours is remarkable: we flit between the drama of pre-WWI England, the mystery of the Amazon and the gruelling realism of the WWI trenches. It’s a startlingly accurate and fresh portrayal that keeps you engaged. The story is methodical: simmering, never achieving its true potential, much like the seemingly unobtainable, undiscoverable city. It’s the off-screen that almost matters as much as what is shown.
The decision to frame drastically varied set pieces the same is bold and brilliant. The dark visuals of the Amazon evoke the imagery of Heart of Darkness. In fact, there’s a lot of creative license in Lost City of Z that is indebted to the classic novella as well as Werner Herzog’s Fitzcarraldo. The crew have clearly done their homework. Mind you, they are overzealous with the heatwave shots.
When the idea for Lost City of Z was tossed around, I thought it would be an interesting arthouse project, consigned to anonymity after a solid few months. How wrong I was. A slow first 20 minutes and a frankly dumbed down Fawcett character don’t matter. Anyone can watch this and fall for its peculiar charm because there is something for everyone to enjoy.
A dark, mysterious film in all possible forms and senses. It confounds from casting to camerawork: Lost City of Z shouldn’t work on paper but the trick pulls off. That, at the end of the day, is all you need be concerned with.
Film as a Film – 4 / Target Audience – 4 / General Audience – 4
Lost City of Z is in cinemas now
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