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The Lost City Of Z

April 27, 2017

The Lost City of Z (**) PG-13

Writer-director James Gray’s dramatization of real life events, The Lost City of Z, offers an intriguing premise, that’s for certain. In the early twentieth century, Percy Fawcett (Charlie Hunnam in the film), became fascinated with locating a lost Amazonian civilization that was rumored to have existed long ago. Fawcett made many travels in his quest but never found what he was looking for, eventually disappearing, along with his son, without a trace. If this sounds like material ripe for cinematic treatment you’d be correct in that assumption and with the right creative talent at the helm it probably would have worked. James Gray is not that filmmaker.

Unfortunately, Gray’s film is a long slog to a conclusion that the viewer already knows firsthand before seeing the first frame of The Lost City of Z. There is simply no reason why a tale such as this should take two hours and twenty minutes to unfold and yet Gray manages to pad out the proceedings in a way that doesn’t offer any real insights into character motivations and serves to only tax the viewer’s patience. One need look no further for an example of the film’s sluggish storytelling than in the fact that it takes a whopping fifty minutes before Fawcett even announces his intention to find the fabled Lost City of Z. These fifty minutes could have easily been whittled down to a mere fifteen and no one would have missed them. Indiscretions such as these only serve to deaden the story’s cinematic potential.

The film is structured in a somewhat conventional way as well and its screenplay, also by director Gray, is based on the 2009 bestseller by David Grann. Fawcett, a mapmaker by trade, is sent on a mission to South America by the British government to map the borders between Brazil and Bolivia.

Charlie Hunnam is Percy Fawcett in The Lost City of Z

Accompanied by his guide (Robert Pattinson) and a rag tag group of those assisting him in the journey, Fawcett stumbles upon some ruins and deduces that it was the site of some ancient civilization, which he dubs Z.  From that point on he becomes obsessed with finding the site, returning every chance he gets, much to the chagrin of his long suffering wife (Sienna Miller). His oldest son (Tom Holland) eventually offers to join him in one final mission to find the lost city, setting things up for the final act of the film.

The Lost City of Z is without a doubt a beautiful film to behold, no one can argue that point. What the film doesn’t have—and what it desperately needs, along with a shorter running time—is insight as to why Fawcett became so obsessed with finding the fabled civilization in the first place. Gray offers no such attempts and what we’re left with is a nice travelogue filled with scene upon scene of Fawcett and company in their vain attempt to accomplish their mission. For a film with such an intriguing story serving as its source material, that’s just not enough.

The Lost City of Z is playing in Charlotte at press time.
The Circle, with Tom Hanks & Emma Watson, opens this Friday in Hickory.

Questions or comments? Write Adam at filmfan1970@hotmail.com.

 

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