April 27, 2017

CINEMA | 'The Lost City of Z' Finds Glory

"A man's reach should exceed his grasp."
Charlie Hunnam Tom Holland James Gray | The Lost City of Z

Moody independent New York filmmaker James Gray ventures into the jungle for his meticulously lush adaptation of journalist David Grann's biography of legendary British explorer Lt. Col. Percy Fawcett. The Lost City of Z (pronounced "Zed" in the Queen's English) is a thoroughly mannered and enlightening cinematic journey about maddening obsession, righteousness, and one's undying ambitions during the turn of the century leading into World War I.

A very heroic and modern looking Charlie Hunnam as Fawcett gives a finely tuned performance making the best case yet for his elevation to movie star status. It's a slow burn yet complex portrayal that moves the decades long story forward without much down time. Hunnam gives much need gravitas to Fawcett as a frustratingly enigmatic figure who seldom hesitates to leave his loving family abandoned for years at a time without much thought.

Fawcett's companion and fellow explorer Henry Costin, played by an unrecognizable Robert Pattinson, is an admirable if underplayed sidekick. Pattinson cedes the ground to Hunnam while maintaining a healthy balance of the egotistical upperclass Englishman personalities around him.

Charlie Hunnam James Gray | The Lost City of Z

Somewhat short-shifted, Sienna Miller as wife Nina Fawcett gives an emotionally powerful performance that could have easily been relegated to simply worried spouse overseas as she shows her own fortitude and power dynamic within her growing family. Tom Holland as eldest son Jack (when he gets older) is a nice addition mirroring his father's flawed ambitions.

Gray has crafted an intriguing, mediative explorer's tale in the classic adventurer mould. His precision and storytelling make the arduous white man venturing into the jungle narrative, not only more palatable, but fully engrossing and effective. The film also takes a modern attitude to the troubling spirit of British colonialism and ideas of native savagery.

With rich, dreamlike visuals from cinematographer Darius Khondji, The Lost City of Z feels both real and unattainable in its sumptuous cinematic imagery. It's certainly a step up from his more insularly earnest stories focused on the complexities New York urban jungle life Gray has exclusively told until now. This venture into the unknown of the Bolivian Amazon proves more than worthwhile and full of wonder.

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