The Lost City of Z is a masterful study of obsession and pride, a brilliantly in depth historical adventure that’s patient, understated, and thoroughly impactful. James Gray takes the time to develop the character of Percival Fawcett (Charlie Hunnam), from his initial desire for glory and respect to his ultimate obsession with the discovery of an ancient city. The film spans decades and vast environment, with Hunnam’s relentless, intensely emotional performance as the focal point to the madness.
Fawcett is a compelling character; he seeks a better life for his wife (Sienna Miller) and son (Tom Holland), but as his travels lead him to the jungle of South America, the whispers of an ancient civilization unknown to European explorers seduces Fawcett into a lifelong goal. Gray gives us reason to relate to Fawcett, from his respect for the supposed “savages” of the Amazon to his leadership and friendship with his men, and his ultimate return to the jungle is simultaneously fulfilling and tragic. Hunnam gives what is no doubt one of the best performances of the year; he commands attention in every scene, from a desperate business meeting with doubtful investors to a action packed chase through the jungle, Hunnam gives a convicted and bitter performance.
It’s the patience that Gray has that makes the film so brilliant; the film navigates through decades of Fawcett’s life, with each moment fueling his conviction. The scenes with Miller and Holland are tender, yet suggest that despite Fawcett’s great love for his family, the jungle has become his home. Gray uses gorgeous, natural lighting to paint a film in which every shot feels like a painting; the jungle scenes are humid, earthly, and almost euphoric, whilst the scenes in England are somber, cold, and unkempt. While Hunnam’s tour de force performance is by far the standout, an impressive and committed ensemble has been amasses, with Robert Pattinson delivering a strong performance as Henry Costin, an explorer who becomes a lifelong friend with Fawcett, yet fears for where his path will lead.
Simply put, there’s nothing easy about The Lost City of Z; it’s clearly a film made with passion and depth, with an epic runtime of 141 minutes giving Gray the perfect time to tell his sweeping epic. At such a length, it’s impressive that the film rarely falters, with exposition never distracting from the fact that the film is a character piece. It’s a beautiful film, with an ending that’s bound to spark discussion far after it’s release. Grade: A