Tuesday, October 18, 2016

“The Lost City Of Z”– Movie Review



On the closing night of The 54th New York Film Festival, I attended The World Premiere of the new action-adventure “The Lost City Of Z” starring Charlie Hunnam and Robert Pattinson. 


When a British adventurer becomes obsessed with finding an ancient South American civilization, will it cost him his life?


Early in the 20th century, Percival Fawcett (Hunnam), a Major in the British military, is called upon for a special assignment by his country’s Geographical Society:  he is to venture to a remote jungle between Bolivia and Brazil where his experience as a surveyor will come in handy to map out the area.  Initially finding the assignment ordinary, Fawcett is informed that he’s actually doing much more – he’s staking out the territory for the British government.   It is believed that many rubber trees grow there and if the British can control access to them, it will bring great wealth to The United Kingdom. 

With the warning that his trip may take a couple of years – after which he either may or may not return – Fawcett heads off, leaving his wife and young son home alone to fend for themselves.  He is aided by Henry Costin (Pattinson), a fellow officer, who helps him along the way by documenting their adventures and encounters.  While there, Fawcett stumbles upon something he hadn’t considered:  proof that these so-called “savages” may have an ancient civilization more advanced than anyone believes – and one which could possibly pre-date the existence of the English themselves. 

Upon his return to England, Fawcett is initially hailed as a hero – until he reports his findings about this ancient Amazonian civilization he may have uncovered, at which point he’s scoffed.  Despite this, he and Costin return a few years later to locate what Fawcett now refers to as “The Lost City Of Z”, but after a new member of his party derails the expedition due to his incompetence, Fawcett and Costin are forced to abort their mission before completion.  By now, The Great War has broken out and both Fawcett and Costin are sent to the front; they survive and Fawcett is promoted to Colonel.  But when his now-grown son Jack (Tom Holland) convinces his father to take him back to the jungle to find this civilization, will they live long enough to come back with their findings?


If you manage to see “The Lost City Of Z”, it is entirely likely that afterwards, you’ll utter something like, “Well, they sure don’t make ‘em like that anymore!”.  A major understatement.  First of all, at nearly two and a half hours, it’s one of those epic action-adventures – a serious version of an Indiana Jones-type tale that demands a bit more from its audience.  For another thing, there’s the old-school shooting style:  unlike the overwhelming majority of movies, this one was shot on 35-millimeter film stock rather than on the more convenient (not to mention ubiquitous) digital video. 

In the digital age, labs that process 35-millimeter film are few and far between – over the past few years, many of them have simply gone out of business for lack of clientele.  This also makes for quite an experience when watching the movie if it is shown on a true 35-millimeter projector; it’s a genuinely nostalgic moment when you see cue blips flashing in the upper right-hand corner of the screen, preparing the projectionist that one reel is about to end and the other projector must start rolling in order for the next reel to begin.  Another thing that will likely not be wasted on motion picture aficionados is the quality of the cinematography by Darius Khondji, especially in the lush jungle shots. 

But enough of the technical aspects of “The Lost City Of Z” – what of the movie itself?  Well, that’s where it’s slightly less spectacular.  Based on a true story – as recorded in the best selling non-fiction book of the same title by David Grann – the adaptation of this story does not entirely paint Fawcett as the hero viewers might expect him to be.  While it might be argued that he was a man preoccupied with his mission, he comes across as something of an egotist who abandoned his family and caused some resentment by his wife (a feminist who unsuccessfully argued to accompany him on his journey) and children.  Ultimately, the emotional impact of this motion picture is substantially more subdued than one might expect it to be, especially considering its length.    

The Lost City of Z (2016) on IMDb

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