The Lost City of Z

How could any film about the exploration of the Amazon before 1925 possibly bore anyone? The answer may be found in why this film is dying at the box office.

The Lost City of ZToo begin with, I have always been a big history buff which goes back to my principal major in college. I have a library filled with books focusing on North and South America from the time that Columbus landed in 1492, and Director James Gray’s The Lost City of Z left me with a great deal of hope. Unfortunately, it was a disappointing movie in nearly every respect, and it was a 2 hour and 20 minute film that left you shaking your head long before it’s ending.

To begin with, I loved the nonfiction bestseller written by David Grann, and it was hard to imagine a film that could not capture its spirited adventure. After all, how could anyone not look forward to joining multiple adventures into Bolivia and the Amazon before 1925 with anything less than profound enthusiasm?

Yet this was one of those movies that was all form and no substance. Charlie Hummam plays Percy Fawcett, an Englishman who in pre-World War I England decided to go to South America to help settle a border dispute between several countries. He somehow survives only to be enticed by the thought that somewhere in the jungle there existed an ancient city waiting to be discovered.

That is where the substance of the movie largely began and ended.

Mr. Fawcett is a married man with a small child when he initially leaves on a multi-year journey. It quickly appears that his decision to leave his family reflects a guy who prefers a jungle filled with snakes and apes to staying at home with the little woman.

Ironically, the strength of the movie flows from the performance of Sienna Miller as Mr. Fawcett’s wife Nina, a strong-willed independent woman who both supports her husband and her ability to survive at home. Much to your surprise, it is far more rewarding to watch Mrs. Fawcett rely on her ingenuity while raising her family in England than to watch her husband thrash around in the jungles of South America.

This is one of those movies where there are no bad performances, but there are few that you could classify as good ones either. However, it is worth noting the performance of Robert Pattinson as Mr. Fawcett’s assistant Henry Costin. His bearded performance will make him all but unrecognizable for those of you who are fans of his starring role in the Twilight saga.

In addition, Tom Holland has a small role as Mr. Fawcett’s son who accompanies him on his last tragic expedition following World War I, and he is about to hit the big time in the soon to be released new Spider Man film. Here, while he clearly loves his father, the reality is that this love will lead to their mutual destruction.

I really wanted this film to be far better than what it was, but disappointment seems to be the cinematic name of the game in May of 2017. How could it be possible for a film wrapped around multiple excursions to the Amazon in the early 20th century with a deviation to a participation in trench warfare in World War I possibly not have emotional appeal?

A good friend of mine sent me his own review of this film before I saw it, and I can only share his thoughts. He suggested that you pass on this movie and spend your time on the book instead, and I fully agree.