James Cole Clay // Film Critic
I’m a person who admittedly isn’t too much of a fan of classical cinema. Call it what you will, but it’s just not my cup of tea. With that being said, THE LOST CITY OF Z by filmmaker James Gray (TWO LOVERS, THE IMMIGRANT) is classic in the best ways imaginable. He photographs his films with a stillness that says so much, yet let’s the audience bask at the beauty within the frame.
THE LOST CITY OF Z is the biggest departure for him as a filmmaker thus far. It’s an epic tale about the consequences of exploring the world and how being a stranger to your own family is a haunting reality for anybody with a demanding calling in their lives.
The film follows Lieutenant Colonel Percival Harrison Fawcett (Charlie Hunnam) as he’s in search of, you guessed it, a lost city. However, he’s not looking for gold or glory, but rather in search of culture — and how noble of him in 2017 terms.
Fawcett’s plight is not without scrutiny from his peers, wife and the government, yet he stays true to his convictions along with his bearded companion Henry Costin (Robert Pattinson in a subdued but effective role) as they trek through the worst conditions of the Amazon jungle. This is a time before OFF! insect repellent existed, so his team is subjected to unclean water, the potential threat of natives throwing spears and trench foot. You name it, they braved it.
But what Gray does with the idea of discovering culture is the real treasure within the film: He exposes the small-minded ideals of the British and how they perceive other worldly communities. Fawcett looks at them as an observer, a man who is longing for answers that may not ever come. He and his team sacrifice years away from their families at a time, only to go back to the sweltering arms of the Amazon jungle searching for ghosts. Hunnam has never been so appealing in a film. We come for the adventure, but when Hunnam’s character ventures back to England he’s essentially a foreigner in his own land. Fascinatingly, Fawcett handles the adversity with ease, using his tongue and intellect to navigate him to his next journey.
Sienna Miller (AMERICAN SNIPER) is once again in a supporting role that would typically be thankless as she’s playing a wife worrying at home. Like Hunnam, Nina Fawcett marks her best role as Gray provides her with a point-of-view and an explorer’s mind in her own right, yet it shows the struggles women were subjected to. She wants to be more than a mother, and like her husband, she’s a multidimensional human.
Unfortunately, Gray’s work has been vastly under seen. Luckily, Amazon Studios has picked up the film and should handle the film’s release properly. THE LOST CITY OF Z is, at this point, the strongest film of the year. It’s truly a throwback that’s epic in scale, yet sharp with its emotional punch.
THE LOST CITY OF Z opens in limited release on Friday (4/21).