Based on a true story and helmed by director James Gray, The Lost City of Z tells the story of British explorer Colonel Percival “Percy” Fawcett, who disappeared in 1925 while searching for a mysterious city in the Amazon jungle.
Blessed with an all-star cast of Charlie Hunnan, Robert Pattison, Sienna Miller and Tom Holland, the film is based on a book written by David Gann after he visited the region in 2005, returning with interesting findings about Fawcett’s original expedition. The term being bandied about online to describe the film is “epic boy’s own adventure”, which pretty much reflects what we see in the trailer, although it suggests a certain amount of frivolity and humor which just doesn’t seem to be there.
Most Hollywood epics come in two kinds. There are the ones that take themselves far too seriously and so become dreary, tiresome and altogether too long. Then there are the ones that think they’re remaking Indiana Jones, filled with quips and impossible stunts that even the greatest of physicists couldn’t justify. There are a few that manage to fall in between – Kong: Skull Island, comes to mind as a recent example – but they’re an unfortunately rare species. Sadly, The Lost City of Z appears to be a textbook example of the first type. Beautiful but with a risk of extreme boredom on the side.
That said, the reviews are already pouring in and so far, so good. The Telegraph called it “stunning” and “an instant classic”, while The Sun went for “a fantastic old-school Richard Attenborough exploration tale”, which I thought was a lovely way of putting it (although if you ever tell anyone I said something nice about The Sun, watch your back). The Guardian, who have been critical of James Gray’s work in the past, was less keen; they gave The Lost City of Z three out of five stars. However, they described it favorably, as a “lush jungle adventure”, and praised the “glorious” music and photography. It does look rather beautiful so maybe it’s just not my thing.
Percival Fawcett, it seems, was very much not Indiana Jones and in the current climate within the industry, that could very well work in the film’s favor. Critics and viewers alike are looking for stories with realism and grit, not snarky quips and comic book heroism. Leave that to Marvel, they’re doing just fine (especially if Infinity War turns out to be better than the train wreck otherwise known as Age of Ultron).
Speaking of Marvel, Tom Holland, who plays Jack Fawcett, Percy’s son, is one to watch here. The young actor’s career has gone from strength to strength over the last couple of years, after he sprang to the attention of UK audiences in the BBC’s historical drama Wolf Hall, followed by his introduction as the new Spiderman in Captain America: Civil War. Of equal interest is Robert Pattinson, still trying to outgrow and escape the Twilight debacle of his younger years by taking on more serious projects like this one.