In Brief: It’s more like the lost city of zzz’s.
The Lost City of Z is the story of British explorer Percy Fawcett. In the early 1900s he explored South America and Brazil and Bolivia and their connection to the Amazon River, its tributaries and other rivers in that region.
Fawcett also believed an advanced civilization once lived in the jungles of Brazil in a huge city packed with gold and architectural marvels. He named the city Z. This film is about Fawcett’s attempt to local the city.
In real life, he made several expeditions to the region between 1906 and 1925. Real life doesn’t quite look like this movie but movies have to compress life stories. This one — though it pushes 2:20 — is compressed. I know it’s hard to imagine something that’s almost 2 1/2 hours long is compressed.
That said short or long, Fawcett’s real life may have been very interesting but this movie is not.
Charlie Hunnam (Pacific Rim, Crimson Peak) stars as Fawcett. It may not be entirely his fault because writer/director James Gray’s script isn’t all that good, but Hunnam doesn’t exhibit a whole lot of personality. But he’s playing an explorer and perhaps explorers are so busy exploring that they don’t have time to develop one.
Robert Pattinson plays Fawcett’s best-friend and exploring companion Henry Costin. Pattinson — you might remember did the vampire Edward in the terrible Twilight movies — is almost unrecognizable and does a pretty good job being the film’s second fiddle. But when it comes to Pattinson, perhaps that he doesn’t say anything makes me think he’s finally developed into a pretty good actor.
Sienna Miller (American Sniper) does Fawcett’s wife Nina and gives the movie its only life. She’s just not in it enough.
Part of the problem is Fawcett’s real life story. While he mapped huge swaths of that region, his trips weren’t all that memorable. That could also explain the boredom of Hunnam. It’s hard to be excited about a life that was probably exciting but not movie exciting.
So don’t be deceived by the trailer. It just looks entertaining and like it’s a grand adventure. It’s not. Fawcett floats the river. His crew is attacked by Indians in the area. Some die. Then they find evidence of the existence of Z. He goes back to England to guffaws about the discovery. Then there’s another trip and so on. And then poor Fawcett has to deal with all that time away from the family.
Remember, it’s the early 1900s and it’s not like you hop a plane and presto you’re there. So a trip from England to Brazil, doing exploration and then getting home again is a several years proposition.
Anyway, all of this executed at a painfully slow speed.
I wanted to like the movie, I really did. What’s sad is Gray — who did the highly acclaimed Yards, We Own the Night and Two Lovers — is an excellent filmmaker. He just isn’t able to translate David Grann’s book into anything that will keep you awake.
The Lost City of Z is more like the lost city of zzzz’s.
Director: James Gray
Stars: Charlie Hunnam, Robert Pattinson, Sienna Miller, Tom Holland
Rated PG-13 for mature themes, violence. Maybe explore other movie options. Give The Lost City of Z a 2 on the Average Joe Movie 0 to 5 scale.
5 to 4 1/2: Must see on the big screen.
4 to 3 1/2: Good film, see it if it’s your type of movie.
3 to 2 1/2: Wait until it comes out on DVD.
2 to 1: Don’t bother.
0:Speaks for itself.
Gary Wolcott has been a movie consultant for KXL since 2014. A lifelong fan of film, he’s been a film critic in radio, television and newspaper for 25-years. Wolcott catches a couple of hundred movies a year and he sees a great many of them so you don’t have to.
Got a movie suggestion or comment? Email him!