Director James Gray (We Own the Night, The Immigrant) is becoming the new classical filmmaker. Along with cinematographer Darius Khondji, The Lost City of Z (or “Zed” if you are not from America) pays tribute to films by David Lean, Werner Herzog, and Steven Spielberg. Filmed in 35 mm film, every shot feels like a painting in motion. At 141 minutes, I wish this movie would have been longer.
This is a stirring epic following the true story of British war hero Percival Fawcett (Charlie Hunnam) going on an expedition to the Amazon to find a lost civilization that once had gold. Along with Corporal Henry Costin (Robert Pattinson) among others, they must face the biggest challenges the uncharted territory has to offer. Humidity, bugs, piranhas, skin infections, diseases, and so on. Once Fawcett discovers some symbols and artifacts deep in the jungle, he returns to the Royal Geographic Society in London to prove his case. He would go back every now and then to find the tribe. Are they cannibals? Or are they equal to everyone else?
Despite his children not recognizing him when he returns from the Amazon, he stills thinks about them and his wife Nina (Sienna Miller, known for playing the archetype of the loving mother and wife) supporting him every step of the way. “I know this is a sacrifice for all of us, but it will be worth it,” he says before he leaves for the Amazon.
In one scene, he is talking in front of the court after his first discovery of the Amazon. He shows the artifacts as well as a document, written by one of the conquistadors, about the lost city of Z. All this leads to his disappearance in 1925 where hundreds of people have searched for him. Hunnam’s portrayal of Fawcett as a courageous explorer and a loving father and husband is the finest moment of his career.
As Costin, Pattinson is almost unrecognizable with the beard. But—his wit the movie provides is a big welcome. Miller’s Nina is more than the typical mother and wife. Not only does she take care of her children, she also supports her husband and his expedition. Tom Holland’s Jack provides some of the film’s most powerful moments in the third act when he accepts to go with his father to try finding the city once and for all. Gray’s marvelous direction and Christopher Spelman’s luscious score makes for one sweeping journey of familial sacrifices.
To quote Richard Roeper: “Warning: If you and I are on a flight someday in the near future and I see you watching The Lost City of Z on a handheld device, I’m might snatch that thing out of your hands.”
Yeah…it’s that good!