Making a period piece in this day and age is very challenging, and in most cases they’re hit or miss. They can either be way too long, have a load of pacing issues, or poorly directed and acted. The Lost City of Z is the opposite of all those things. From the directing to the fantastic screenplay, The Lost City of Z fires on all cylinders. For it being a true story as well, it gets most of the facts straight and tells a story of explorer Percy Fawcett that most people haven’t even heard of. Everyone should know his story.
A true-life drama, centering on British explorer Col. Percival Fawcett, who disappeared while searching for a mysterious city in the Amazon in the 1920s.
The story of The Lost City of Z is very intriguing, exciting, and devastating. Director James Gray (The Immigrant, 2013) does a splendid job at touching on all of these emotions throughout the film. His vision is clear and executed very well. This is his most ambitious and, in my opinion, best movie to date. He does a great job with the characters, giving them plenty of depth and making the audience genuinely care about them and their story. Gray also does a pleasing job of balancing the exploration scenes and the necessary down time with Percy and his family. This is definitely a piece of classical cinema and the storytelling is masterful and compelling.
Speaking of characters, Charlie Hunnam blew me away with his portrayal of Percy. If you have watched Sons of Anarchy and you really like Hunnam, then be prepared to not even recognize him. He had 3 or 4 scenes that were really impressive. The Lost City of Z is a big step forward in his career and in his transition from television to film. Percy’s determination and perseverance fuel the film. He goes on 3 separate expeditions throughout the movie. Each time he gets closer and closer to finding his proposed lost city, but there is always some adversity. Nature and the indian tribes in the jungle make it vert difficult for Percy and his crew to reach their destination. People back home in England doubt him, but this propels his obsession even more. His infatuation with the jungle causes him to neglect his family for years, missing the births of his children. Hearing his children ask him, “Are you my father?” is very heartbreaking. The movie does a great job of making the audience understand how bad he wants to find the lost city, and what he sacrifices to do so. He is an explorer at heart.
Another character worth noting is Percy’s right hand man Henry Costin, portrayed by Robert Pattinson (The Twilight Saga). He is also unrecognizable and gives a strong performance as Costin. I had to remind myself a few times during the movie that it was Pattinson. This was an important role for his career. Overall, the cast was great and there were simply no weak spots.
From a production and technical standpoint, the cinematography and costume design were remarkable. Shot on 35mm, each frame felt like a painting, especially the ones of the expedition in the jungle. They did not come easy, though. Director James Gray stated that they faced numerous challenges in the jungle. Gray actually wrote Francis Ford Coppola, director of Apocalypse Now, asking him for advice about shooting in the jungle. Coppola responded with two words: “Don’t go.” You can imagine how challenging it would be to shoot in the wilderness. It makes The Lost City of Z even more impressive.
The costume design was Oscar worthy, hands down. I don’t remember the last time I watched a period piece that was that authentic in the costume department. It was perfect. They definitely did their homework and hit a home run with the casts’ apparel. I really hope Oscar season this Fall doesn’t make the Academy forget about The Lost City of Z, because it definitely deserves some recognition.
At 140 minutes, The Lost City of Z isn’t for the average movie goer. I was a little skeptical going into it, thinking it might be too long and riddled with pacing issues. Thankfully, that was not the case. It doesn’t feel too long and there doesn’t seem to be any wasted scenes. The story is so interesting and is executed so well that you don’t have the urge to check your watch every 15 minutes.
The Lost City of Z is a story that everyone should know. We’re so used to having cell phones and plenty of means of transportation nowadays, that we don’t realize that people had to explore unknown areas on foot with no clue what they were walking into. If you’re a lover of contemporary cinema, this work of art is for you.