The Lost City Of Z | James Gray | NYFF 2016
Closing out the 54th New York Film Festival is James’ Gray’s The Lost City Of Z, which adapted for the screen based off of the 2009 book of the same name written by author David Grann. which tells the insane real life story about the British explorer Percy Fawcett who went missing in 1925 along with his son, after his desperate search for a lost city in the Amazon. Gray takes the events and creating a beautiful adventure film that feels like something from a lost era in itself, the sort of film that you’d see many decades ago.
When we meet Percy Fawcett (Charlie Hunnam) is 1905, he’s a young British officer who is just trying to gain the respect of his superiors, but they look down at him because of past transgressions of his father. His luck changes when he’s sent to meet with members of the Royal Geographical Society who need him to go to the Amazon rainforest to survey land to help settle a conflict between Bolivia and Brazil, as well as to get his family’s good name back.
On the ship ride over he meets Corporal Henry Costin (Robert Pattinson) who becomes a valuable asset to Fawcett as well as a good friend. It’s a long and trying journey, but one that leads Fawcett to discover some amazing artifacts that hint that the story he heard about an old advanced society way before their time may have had some truth to it.
Upon returning home Fawcett tries to convince the Royal Geographical Society about the possibility of this great lost city of Z, but he’s laughed at despite his evidence. But he won’t be stopped and embarks on another grueling mission, one that becomes even more difficult because he has to once again leave his loving wife Nina (Sienna Miller) and their young son Jack (Tom Holland) behind in order to prove what is now his life work correct.
The script, which is carefully put together by James Gray, places you into this time period and into the mind of Farcett. As he keeps returning to try and find his lost city of Z, each time he’s a little bit older and the dream seems slightly out of reach – a powerful message that all of us can relate to in some form. Then there’s the natural sacrifices one must make to achieve greatness as an adult, such as strained relationships with your wife and kids, who naturally let resentment build, not matter how proud of you they may be at the same time.
Gray patiently takes his time establishing each time period and scene or set piece, all shot gorgeously on film by cinematographer Darius Khondji and powerfully scored by composer Christopher Spelman. At 141 minutes it is a long and sometimes slow moving ride, but considering it’s based on a man’s life, this is understandable. As we pace towards the eventual final visit to Z, Fawcett brings his son Jack along for the final ride.
Gray is able to get some career best work from all of his actors here, especially Charlie Hunnam who delivers a strong and assured performance of a man destined to complete his dream, no matter what costs. The same can be said about Robert Pattinson who is almost unrecognizable in his role, fully diving into the character and giving one of the best performances of his newly minted career. Sienna Miller doesn’t share as much screen-time as her husband, but her scenes are crucial to the story and she makes the most out of a little in every way imaginable. There’s also some find work from Tom Holland as Jack and Angus Macfadyen as James Murray, a frustrating explorer with deep pockets who almost ruins their second mission.
This truly is an amazing story, almost so fantastical that it’s hard to believe that it’s based on a true story. Historians to this very day still don’t know what really happened to Farcett and his son and I’m sure the reality of not knowing is probably more exciting that whatever tragedy took place out there. Gray showcases their final moment together in an utterly haunting fashion, a sequence that is quite literally one of the most beautiful ones that you will see in cinema all year (or next year when the film is actually released). It has stayed with me ever since the credits rolled and something tells me I won’t be able to shake it for some time now.