The Lost City Of Z review: James Gray writes and directs this take of an epic true story of twentieth century explorer Percy Fawcett.

The Lost City Of Z review by Paul Heath at the 2017 Berlin Film Festival.

The Lost City Of Z review
The Lost City Of Z review

James Gray follows up previous crime movies The Yards, We Own The Night and the previous Little Odessa, all of which were impressive in their own way, with this ambitious, yet involving period piece about the legendary British explorer Colonel Percy Fawcett who, in the early twentieth century, embarked on a series of journeys to find a mysterious lost city in the Amazon jungle.

Charlie Hunnam (Green Street, Sons Of Anarchy) leads the cast of this epic 140-minute motion picture that is reminiscent of movies made in an era a long ago. In The Lost City Of Z he plays the lead of Fawcett, an ambitious young man introduced to us as the son of a disgraced father from a particularly humble background. Keen to make a name for himself, Fawcett is offered the opportunity to embark on a land surveying mission to the depths of South America by the Royal Geographic Society in London. Despite having a young child and another on the way, Fawcett accepts the invitation to lead the trip to Bolivia, which is expected to take more than a at least a couple of years. Accompanying him on this epic journey are a crew of fellow ambitious young men, including Robert Pattinson‘s wing man, Henry Costin.

The Lost City Of Z review
The Lost City Of Z review

The trip draws an immediate fascination with the jungle from the young explorer, and leaves Fawcett convinced of an existence of a mysterious lost city. This leads the Colonel and his team back for another journey, this time with the accompaniment of a more senior official at the Royal Geographic Society. The expedition sees Fawcett travel away from his family once more, and along the way, the group encounter dangerous terrain, remote civilizations, and countless obstacles, but a feeling of utter determination, constant bravado and a an unrelenting passion for life keeps them going in a hope to find one of Earth’s holy grails.

The Lost City Of Z is deeply enthralling, completely immersing cinema and, with a film that covers decades in time over a rather long running time, maintains that interest until the very end. A lot of this is down to Charlie Hunnam’s extreme watch-ability, the actor comfortably moving into leading man status as he leaves a very successful television career behind him. Hunnam appears in almost every scene, and Gray’s screenplay does ask a lot of him, but the actor has clearly embraced the material with as much vigor and ambition as the character that he plays. The same can be said of Robert Pattinson, the former Twilight star accepting a supporting role that is massively underplayed, though he plays it to absolute perfection, and, to be honest, he’s probably never been better.

Current Spider-Man Tom Holland completes the main trio of male actors in one of his biggest roles yet, and even though he doesn’t appear until at least halfway through the picture, delights in every scene that he appears in. Sienna Miller as Nina Fawcett, Percy’s wife, is also exceptional.

The Lost City Of Z review
The Lost City Of Z review

Watching The Lost City Of Z (pronounced ‘zed’ by the way), is very much an investment emotionally, but it is nothing but rewarding in almost every single way. Very much using practical sets rather than sound stages, Gray successfully recreates a world where it was very much about the unknown, and viewing the movie, you feel every emotion as you journey with these characters.

The director shows immense scope as a filmmaker, the promise of which was seen in his earlier pictures. Every scene has been meticulously and masterfully constructed, both in terms of its screenplay, the fantastic interior set designs, exterior vistas and the glorious cinematography from Russian DOP Darius Khondji (Seven, Midnight In Paris) who captures every frame magnificently.

The huge running time could put off some, but please do not shy away from this purely because of that minor fact as the narrative devours every second. The Lost City Of Z really is an illustration of how movies used to be made, and a shines as an example of cinematic escapism and pure adventure, the likes of which we haven’t seen for quite some time.

The Lost City Of Z review by Paul Heath, February 2017.

The Lost City Off Z was reviewed at the 2017 Berlin Film Festival. It will be released in the UK on March 30th 2017.

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The Lost City Of Z