The Lost City of Z

An epic tale of obsession as Charlie Hunnam plays a British explorer searching for an ancient Amazonian city

Film Review by Josh Slater-Williams | 08 Mar 2017
Film title: The Lost City of Z
Director: James Gray
Starring: Charlie Hunnam, Robert Pattinson, Sienna Miller, Angus Macfadyen, Tom Holland, Edward Ashley, Ian McDiarmid, Harry Melling, Franco Nero
Release date: 24 Mar
Certificate: 15

In charting the life of archaeologist and explorer Percy Fawcett, who disappeared while searching for a fabled place in 1925, James Gray’s classical epic The Lost City of Z is a rare thing: a colonialism-based story led by white men that’s actually reflective regarding the British Empire’s intrusion upon and attitudes towards the Amazon.

Discoveries during one South America assignment prompt Fawcett (played here by Charlie Hunnam, giving a sturdy, gradually nuanced performance) to hypothesise on the existence of a city and culture that pre-date Western civilisation, prompting outrage from peers unwilling to break from notions of ‘the primitive savage’. Fawcett’s further expeditions seeking proof find funding, nonetheless, pitting him and a motley crew against various dangers, none of which prove as persistent as his maddening obsession.

Though visually resembling Werner Herzog’s Fitzcarraldo and Aguirre, the Wrath of God, with hallucinatory night-time jungle scenes recalling Apocalypse Now, Gray’s exploration into a driven individual’s morality more resembles Lawrence of Arabia in tone, and he largely succeeds in managing the same coupling of lush, lyrically expressive imagery with rich emotional resonance.

The Lost City of Z was the surprise film screening at this year's Glasgow Film Festival, and will be released in cinemas by StudioCanal on 24 Mar.

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