by Joanna Orland
The story of British explorer Percy Fawcett has captured the public’s imagination since his mysterious disappearance in the Amazonian jungle in 1925, as he searched for what he believed to be a lost city he called “Z”. Author David Grann published the book The Lost City of Z which tells the true story of Percy, based on Grann’s own research through his personal travels to the Amazon. The film adaptation of Grann’s book is a look at the explorer’s life from his time in the British army up until he disappeared alongside his eldest son Jack. Slow-paced but highly engaging, the film never quite reaches its full potential, much as Fawcett himself never did find the lost city of Z.
Perhaps there was something technically at fault with the print or projectionist, but watching what I expected to be an epic visual feast on 35mm film became a huge disappointment. The picture was dull, dark and faded while the audio was filled with glitches and dodgy edits. Seeing it at one of central London’s premiere cinemas, I wouldn’t expect such flaws in the filmic viewing experience, so if you’re going to venture out to see The Lost City of Z, I would actually recommend seeking out a digital copy rather than film. A shame, as some of the landscapes are likely to be beautiful and had the film been properly shot and played back, I’d imagine its scenery to be the highlight.
Instead, what I experienced was a very hard-on-the-eyes cinematic experience as I longed for it to be better. Charlie Hunnam as Percy lacks that special quality required from a star in a lead performance, his supporting star Robert Pattinson doing a much better job as sidekick and travel companion Henry Costin. Sienna Miller is capable in the role of Percy’s wife, but again, missing on screen presence to make this a truly engaging performance. The casting of Tom Holland as their son is a bit jarring at first as during his initial appearance, he is supposed to be playing a child around the age of 10-12. He is a 20-year-old man, and when he’s playing his own age, he does a decent job of it, but up until then, it is just weird.
Performances aside, the premise and content of The Lost City of Z is highly interesting and somewhat alluring in its filmic presentation. Reminiscent of old classics along the lines of Kipling or even Conrad, the setting and adventure elements of the film are enough to make it a worthwhile watch. Nostalgic in its presentation, notably through its (mis)use of 35mm, the film has that old quality to it that makes it a movie unfitting for modern times, not necessarily a bad thing, but one that is very niche and genre-confined.
Lacking momentum and aural-visual sheen, The Lost City of Z has the feel of an old classic, but fails to find its Z.