The Lost City of Z

Movies like The Lost City of Zed are few and far between these days.

In this sprawling adventure film, the attention to detail amid the scope of the subject matter is reminiscent of enduring works like Lawrence of Arabia and Doctor Zhivago.

The film, based on the true story of 1920s British explorer Col. Percival Fawcett, follows a man obsessed with what he believed to be a lost city in the Amazon jungle.

It is clear from the beginning that Fawcett is a talented and devoted soldier whose career in the British military has stalled because his aristocratic father was a drunk of loose morals who tarnished his family name.

“He suffers from an unfortunate choice of ancestry," remarks a nobleman who dismisses him as a possible candidate for advancement.

A chance to reinstate his family name comes from an unlikely source, The Royal  Geographical Society, when he is conscripted to go to the Amazon to head off a war between Brazil and Bolivia by ascertaining their true borders and hence securing the valuable rubber trade for Britain.

While on this difficult and dangerous mission where several members of his team are lost to disease and hostile native attacks, Fawcett finds ancient pottery and other artifacts that lead him to believe the native legends of a lost, advanced civilization in the Amazon.

Fawcett returns to England and now must convince a dubious, elitist British society that other civilizations existed beyond what they previously knew and that the area is worthy of further exploration, not for economic exploitation, but for anthropological reasons. 

The film follows Fawcett’s life as he becomes more obsessed with the lost city he has named “Z” and returns numerous times to the Amazon in an attempt to find it.

Charlie Hunnam (Pacific Rim) plays Percy Fawcett with a measured period-appropriate control.

Brad Pitt originally purchased the rights to the film and was set to play the lead, but backed out and opted to make World War Z instead. It was a lucky turn of events for Hunnam as he is excellent and it may prove to be the best work of his career.

Sienna Miller is heartbreakingly perfect as Fawcett’s devoted and long-suffering wife, Nina. Left alone for years on end with three children to raise, Nina is forced to forgo her own dreams and ambitions to support her husband’s dream.

Miller’s scenes with Hunnam are touching and sensitively played and I predict a possible Oscar nod for Best Supporting Actress for her performance.

Filming in a jungle is a nightmare and director Gray was almost talked out of making the film more than once. As it turns out, his tenacity was stretched to the breaking point as this film took nine years to make and endured a litany of obstacles.

Thankfully, his persistence paid off with the result being an opulent journey of the senses, particularly shining when the explorers are in the jungle pursuing their quest.

As a side note, Fawcett was the inspiration for Harrison Ford’s Indiana Jones character in the Raiders Of The Lost Ark series.

Unfortunately, we spend entirely too much time in England sorting through class system snobberies and the First World War scenes are unnecessary and unrealistic, serving only to bog down the flow of the film.

The ending of the film is romanticized Hollywood fluff that is a direct contrast to the rather straightforward style that makes up the rest of the movie. An attempt to convey the mysticism of the jungle, the fabricated scene serves as a confusing annoyance to an otherwise lovely film.

If you are in the mood for a thought-provoking, 140-minute adventure, The Lost City of Z should be just the ticket.

I give this film 3.5 out of 5 hearts.

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About the Author

Kim Foreman-Rhindress is a graduate of the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in New York City and London Western Conservatory of music for piano and voice. 

Kim has been performing in theatre and film for over 30 years in Canada, NYC, Palm Beach, Los Angeles, and the Netherlands. She has written several plays which have been produced in Canada and the U.S., and is the founder of Kelowna Voice Lab - helping people find their voice, be it singing or acting. 

A working musician, she performs regularly in Kelowna with her husband, Jim Rhindress, in an acoustic duo Smitten, and with her vintage trio Kitsch 'n Sync.  

The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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