Set in the early 1900s, James Gray's film tells the story of Percy Fawcett (Charlie Hunnam), a British soldier-turned-explorer who's hellbent on discovering a mythological city in South America (which he calls "Zed"). He teams up with a fellow comrade (played by a funny and heavily bearded Robert Pattinson) and they, along with a native guide, embark on a quest deep into uncharted Amazonia.
It's slow-going at first, but once the crew enters the jungle, this transforms into an intense and engrossing journey, especially as they're faced with the unforgiving elements of the rainforest--dangerous animals, infection, terrain, weather, and the uncertainty of how the native tribes may react to their presence. The picture is steeped in a sepia haze, giving the film a layer of humidity and an old-fashioned grandeur, and it displays some exquisitely stunning photography of lush, scenic nature.
Charlie Hunnam, who I've found to be a bit bland in the past, gives a towering performance here. It's easily his best to date, as he commands every single scene with a steadfast vigor and a major sense of dedication. It's also a richly complex character, too. Percy has peaceful and knowledge-seeking intentions, stressing the importance of respect for the natives, their culture, and their history, despite the backlash he receives from the bigoted British aristocracy. And yet, at times he can come off as harsh and neglectful to his own wife (Sienna Miller) and children (one is played by Tom Holland, who's having a breakout as the latest Spider-Man). Percy's commendable ambition and passion for discovery is the very thing that drives him away from his family. These same themes came up in a great film from a few years ago called Kon-Tiki (check out the director's cut if you haven't).
The Lost City of Z is a beautifully shot, sprawling expedition that hearkens back to classical adventures of the past. It's a film that shouldn't just be hidden away, so go seek this one out.
* 8.5/10 *
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