REVIEW: ‘The Lost City of Z’

by Adrienne McIlvaine @mizocty

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Though it’s often hard to recognize in the moment, so much of our lives is determined not by careful planning or conscious deliberation but by pure chance. A missed train here, a random meeting there, the gradual accumulation of small, unforeseeable moments that guide us on the grand, unknowable journey through life. For Percy Fawcett, discarded bits of broken pottery were the runes that foretold his destiny.

The Lost City of Z, directed by James Gray and based on a 2009 book by New Yorker author David Grann, traces the life of 19th century British explorer Percy Fawcett and his quixotic quest to discover what he called the ancient Amazonian city of Z. It’s a classic adventure story that doubles as a stirring exploration of ambition, obligation, obsession, and the inescapable pull of time. Action-packed and meditative, epic in scope and intimate in detail, the film, like Fawcett’s mythic city, has a compelling, contemplative quality that lingers long afterwards.

Percy Fawcett (Charlie Hunnam) is a well-traveled and well-liked soldier in the British army who in 1905 agrees to undertake a trip to the Amazon on a mapmaking mission for the Royal Geographic Society. His chance discovery of broken pottery deep in the jungle convinces him that an ancient city and peoples must have existed there thousands of years before modern civilization, a belief that drives a wedge between the empathetic explorer and his narrow-minded colleagues. Over the course of twenty years, Fawcett and his trusty aide de camp Henry Costin (Robert Pattinson, in a look best described as “John Lennon goes to the jungle”) embark on excursions that are thrilling and beautiful, filled with moments of painterly beauty, natural wonder, and the mutual understanding and respect that Fawcett slowly develops with the indigenous tribes.

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But it’s what happens in the years between his trips to the jungle that gives The Lost City of Z its unexpectedly melancholic heart; Fawcett’s children slowly grow to resent their often-absent father, and he’s forced to acknowledge the years lost with his long-suffering but supportive wife Nina (Sienna Miller). The tension between Fawcett’s all-consuming obsession with Z and his duty to Nina and his children is etched onto Hunnam’s earnest, open face in a performance that showcases Hunnam’s ability to balance rugged physicality with tender introspection.

Like the mysterious Amazon jungle into which Fawcett ventures forth, there’s more to The Lost City of Z than meets the eye. There’s a subtle parallel between the experience of watching the film and Fawcett’s explorations, of starting a journey whose destination seems straightforward only to be drawn into an enigmatic mystery that ends with no easy answers: Fawcett and his eldest son Jack (played by Tom Holland) disappeared in 1925 on a final expedition to find Z and were never seen or heard from again. A riverside procession lit by flickering torches shepherds Fawcett and Jack to destinations unknown, suggesting an elemental rebirth.

In searching for a legend, Fawcett became one himself.

About The Author

Hiko Mitsuzuka
Entertainment Editor-at-Large

Hiko Mitsuzuka is a self-proclaimed pop culture connoisseur who resides in L.A. and obsesses over songs months before everyone else obsesses over them. He has worked in TV and commercial production ever since he left his native New York in the early 00s. He has worked at the world-renowned Anonymous Content and Carsey-Werner and freelanced as a treatment writer for award-winning directors as well as a contributing writer for 'Instinct.' In addition to writing about entertainment and travel for 'Bello,' Hiko can currently be seen in the roles of Manager of Creative Planning at Stun Creative (PromaxBDA's North America Agency of the Year, 2013, 2014, 2017), film critic for ScreenPicks.com, and contributor for The Huffington Post. He's also currently working on the novel 'Slasher Movie Girl.' His obsessions include quoting old sitcom dialogue and stalking people on Instagram. His vices include chocolate chip cookies and movie theater popcorn. Tweet him @TheFirstEcho.

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