The Lost City of Z, review: ‘An unexpected triumph’

PUBLISHED: 08:00 21 March 2017

Robert Pattinson in The Lost City of Z.  Picture: AIDAN MONAGHAN

Robert Pattinson in The Lost City of Z. Picture: AIDAN MONAGHAN

2016 LCOZ HOLDINGS, LLC

Despite sounding like the next Tarzan spin-off, this based-on-a-true-story tale is a striking success, starring Robert Patinson and Charlie Hunnam

The Lost City of Z is a film I had half a mind to give a miss. The notion of sending the precious, delicate flower of our thespian youth off on an expedition to the Amazonian jungle seemed an enterprise fraught with potential disaster.

Him out of Twilight (Robert Pattinson), the new boy Spider-man (Tom Holland) and, even the Son of Anarchy (Charlie Hunnam) who turned down Fifty Shades, just didn’t seem robust enough for the task ahead, doomed to perish in some vainglorious calamity, like fresh faced, well groomed Captain Scotts.

This expedition though is an unexpected triumph. It manages to do something that the movies almost never do: it tells a based-on-a-true story as though it might actually be true. It is important for potential viewers to realise that despite the pulpy title which looks as though it should be prefaced by “Tarzan And,” this is not a tale of foolhardy derring-do gone wrong but a biopic of the explorer Percy Fawcett; a career soldier who, while mapping the border between Bolivia and Brazil, discovers an obsession that will cause him to be apart from his wife (Sienna Miller) and family for many years.

We have become accustomed to these stories of chaotic Werner Herzog and Klaus Kinski led descents into madness. This is a tale of a destructive obsession, but a calm, measured destructive obsession. It’s terribly British like that.

The film hero worships Fawcett but the careful, balanced way it presents his pursuit reveals much more about what drove the sense of duty and sacrifice in the British officer class that built the empire, than a stiff upper lip caricature could. The film is like a Ripping Yarns script, played straight and very poignantly.

The American director James Gray also wrote the script and has done so with some bravery. Confronted with a narrative that sprawls over two decades (1905 to the mid 1920s), it is episodic, has few major defining events or neat narrative arcs, and the motivation of the characters is often tough for a modern audience to grasp. But it doesn’t flinch or scamper away to the haven of artistic license.

Instead, it faces them all down head on and tries to deal with its subject honourably and faithfully. And overall it succeeds, creating a film that is the mirror of its subject: bold, striking, spiritual and full of integrity.

Halfmanhalfcritic.com for a review of Life.

Rating: 4/5 stars

Latest Hampstead & Highgate Stories

5 minutes ago

Arsenal take on West Ham at the London Stadium on Wednesday evening after a disappointing performance during a 1-1 draw at Southampton.

17:30

Darting royalty Dennis Priestley, Martin Adams and Bobby George have stepped up to the oche in the fight against prostate cancer, attending an exclusive event at a pub that has signed up as a Men United Arms venue in London.

16:00

Promising talents to take part in event in New Zealand next month

15:00

Young defender has been on loan with Blades in the Championship this season

12:51

Plans to restore a Grade II*-listed building which saw 600 objections from the community have been given the go ahead by Haringey Council planning chiefs.

Emma Bartholomew stays at Cove Cottages in St Agnes with her family, where they take surf lessons en masse in the bay right below

15:26

South Hampstead Junior School pupils have marked 60 years since the school moved into its own separate site at 12 Netherhall Gardens in 1957.

07:47

Mark McCall admitted Saracens were shocked by their 46-14 collapse to Clermont in a record Champions Cup defeat for the holders.

Most read Hampstead & Highgate etcetera

Show Job Lists

Digital Edition

cover

Enjoy the
Hampstead & Highgate Express
e-edition today

Subscribe

Education and Training

cover

Read the
Education and Training
e-edition today

Read Now