Saturday, August 19, 2017

The Lost City of Z (2016)


Sounds like a sequel to a Brad Pitt movie but looked more like an Indiana Jones, if Indy was real. The Lost City of Z involves the search of a lost city but with less fun, more public ridicule, long walks and boat rides across vast jungles, and most of all, glory is uncertain.

The realism of exploration is what I liked about the movie however lacking in detail. Most of the time the realism meant just walking. 

Protagonist Percival Fawcett (Charlie Hunnam) started off with a mapping mission, to determine the borders of Bolivia and Brazil. Along with Henry Costin (Robert Pattinson), they did routine surveyor worked complete with equipment that includes the typical tripod with scope and poles, in the wilderness. The nitty gritty, documentation by hand, everything by hand; I wish this element of the movie had more detail.

Getting bit by the exploration bug was an accident. Percy encountered bits of pottery in the jungle and vowed to come back to look for the civilization that owned it. 

To get funding he convinced people of his theories pushing back the occasional ridicule. He encountered problems with supply, homesickness, language, and the routine issue of being eaten by cannibals. And Indy only had snakes and Nazis.

The acting is where this movie goes bad especially with Charlie Hunnam who just sucks the life out of every scene. 

There’s something of the dialogue, it’s rhythm that I didn’t like. I always blamed it on Charlie but I googled the itch I had in mind and there is was, a book of the same name. When characters speak in this movie they sounded good enough to read, but as Mark Hamill once said: “who talks like this?”

Charlie could have used some help with a script that sounded more real, conversational. He has a great supporting cast and his performance pulls them down.

In the span of the movie’s 2 hours Percy Fawcett underwent numerous stresses and Charlie failed to sell anything emotionally. The young major hungry for advancement but was always snubbed; an explorer facing near death in unknown jungle; an explorer reuniting with the family after a long time in the jungle; obsession – I didn’t feel a thing.


You can say liking Ian McDiarmid is a bad sign. As expected my first impression was why is the Sith Lord doing a period piece? But in the end, compared to Charlie, I was still more sold in Ian’s Sir George Goldie than Percy.

I’ve depended on the rest of the supporting cast to not loose myself emotionally. The marriage I get from his wife, Nina (Sienna Miller), she loves him always looking out for the husband’s career and happiness. Even under a full grown beard, Robert Pattinson as Henry Costin still convinced me of the rigors of jungle travel. 

The biggest personal stress of exploration I felt through Jack Fawcett (Tom Holland), Percy’s son, for whatever those few scenes are worth.

Jack has always been the key in making The Lost City of Z more emotionally fulfilling. There was an attempt to bookend the story; Percy started and ended the exploration with a shot of his son. The start was weak. Charlie couldn’t connect with a child actor as his father and likewise the child could not project himself adequately as a son. 

Among the many themes the story delved into was British society. Percy has a chip on his shoulder, always being shunned by the higher-ups for the sins of his father – which the movie never elaborated. He always hoped to be up there one day. And then he hoped the discovery would open the minds. Both went nowhere. The one that did, the family, was underdeveloped.

Obsession would have reinforced the point of family stress but I never felt that much less passion for the lost city. His first mission was a mapping one so he can only talk about theories. With support of the Royal Geographical Society he came back, once, and failed to find it; he still had only theories.

Percy always looked the same coming back. Nina was always supportive. He barely talks to his children being in the jungle all the time, he barely argues too so how would I know there is stress?

Yet even absent a proper setup, I think it sweet in the end that son accepted his father by joining him in an expedition. Tom carried those last few scenes as far as he could, stupid mustache and all.

I felt the validation; something in Percy’s life had gone right. Jack understood his father’s difficulties in society and the how a lost city is important. Joining his father in search of the lost city that has always taken his father away from his life carried a lot of meaning, especially since father and son was lost in the expedition. A perfect bookend if only it had a strong beginning to match.


And then Charlie said his lines, the goodbye talk between father and son... 

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