'The Lost City of Z'

'The Lost City of Z'
U/A; Action/Biopic
Director: James Gray
Cast: Charlie Hunnam , Robert Pattinson, Sienna Miller, Tom Holland, Edward Ashley, Angus Macfadyen, Ian McDiarmid, Clive Francis

Rating:

A true-life drama, based on the book by David Grann and adapted for the screen by James Gray, this film centers on British explorer Col. Percival Fawcett, who disappeared while searching for a mysterious city in the Amazon in the 1920s. Fawcett, was known to have made several expeditions to the lost city of Z, believed to be the remains of El Dorado in the Brazilian jungle.

David Grann had in fact visited the region in 2005, learnt interesting facts about the Fawcett's expeditions and his now iconic status an explorer of ancient civilizations (Indiana Jones and the lost World could well have been inspired by that), to back up his book.

The movie follows three of Fawcett's known expeditions and plods along in uninteresting and unadventurous fashion while introducing his life beginning from his military career, moving on to his first map making expedition on the border of Bolivia and Brazil in 1906 during which he found pottery finds that convinced him that a complex civilization had existed there. The second expedition, initiated by the Royal Geographical Society came close to finding the city but illness and psychological problems in the team forced him to discontinue. Then comes the first World War and only after his mandatory stint there, does he embark on his final expedition in 1925, with his son. Was this true bonafide exploration or was it just madness? The verdict is never quite clear in this account.

In one scene Nina (Sienna Miller), Fawcett's long suffering wife makes a bold attempt to convince him of her suitability for the next expedition and the explanation given is that she had done some research and found an important link that helped Fawcett secure funds for it. Mind you, this was after the birth of both children and she was willing to abandon them to relatives while she accompanied him on his dangerous exploit - which could well have left their children orphaned. Was this meant to give the film a feminist slant or was it a fact? Shown this way, it doesn't really feel like one. Even the class-based snobbery of the period finds represention- but it's quite unconvincingly done.

The script is written more like a research document than a soul searching exploit about exploration itself. There's neither wonder at the findings nor is there any thrill in the process of it. It's all 'too obvious' to make the story at hand exciting. The lack of intelligence in the storytelling is telling. Fawcett's theories and beliefs about the lost kingdom of Z come across as half-baked and without substance. Not enough is done here to convince us about the true greatness of his finds. It's as though the director expects us to be already enamored by his myth before seeing this movie. Hunnam and Miller go through the motions quite efficiently and the supporting cast are respectfully laidback in their enthusiasm. DoP Darius Khondji does some eye pleasing work here but it's not in the same class or complexity of his groundbreaking work in Se7en. The problem here is that we never get to feel the haunting struggle and draw of the jungle or Percy's struggle with himself for the world he leaves behind. Percy comes across as truly selfish and fanciful – which does not help sustain interest or empathy, and that's killer turn-off!