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|The Lost City of Z|
dir-scr James Gray
prd Dede Gardner, James Gray, Dale Armin Johnson, Anthony Katagas, Jeremy Kleiner
with Charlie Hunnam, Tom Holland, Sienna Miller, Robert Pattinson, Harry Melling, Franco Nero, Angus Macfadyen, Daniel Huttlestone, Aleksandar Jovanovic, Nicholas Agnew, Edward Ashley, Johann Myers
release UK 24.Mar.17, US 14.Apr.17
Meet the natives: Hunnam and Holland
BERLIN FILM FEST
|R E V I E W B Y R I C H C L I N E|
Based on the true story of intrepid explorer Percy Fawcett, this beautifully produced film gets bogged down in the facts, struggling to generate much dramatic momentum for cinema audiences. Repetitive and overlong, the story includes some terrific sequences and strong characters, but it never quite captures the earnest obsession of its central character.
In 1906, Percy Fawcett (Hunnam) is sent on a geographical survey to map the border between Bolivia and Brazil. With his sidekick Costin (Pattinson), Fawcett discovers evidence of a sprawling, complex ancient Amazonian civilisation that he names Z, the culmination of humanity. After a break with wife Nina (Miller) in England, he returns to the jungle with Costin and benefactor Murray (Macfadyen), who jeopardises the expedition, forcing them to return empty-handed. Then after fighting in the Great War, Percy makes a final attempt to find Z, returning to Brazil with his son Jack (Holland).
The story's fragmented structure keeps the film from ever grabbing hold of the audience emotionally. The filmmakers drastically simplified Fawcett's expeditions to South America (depicting three when he actually made around 10), and yet the back and forth structure undermines the plot's momentum. While it adds to the character, the long WWI sequence is an unnecessary aside, especially when a gypsy appears in the trenches to remind the audience of Fawcett's Amazon fixation.
Hunnam is an engaging lead, dashing and crisply British, only rarely letting down his stiff upper lip. And his scenes with Miller, as an unusually empowered early 20th century woman, snap with chemistry and intellectual verve. Pattinson has some fun as the scurrilous Costin, while Macfadyen makes the most of his pantomime villain character. And everyone is blown off the screen by a more subtly magnetic performance from Holland as a rebellious teen who is won over by his father's passion.
The filmmaking is first-rate, with terrific locations and fine production design. This is a fascinating story that deserves to be told, but its inability to be wedged into a traditional movie narrative structure leaves the audience struggling to find a way in. Larger themes about imperialism and exploitation are abandoned, while the characters' emotional arcs never emerge at all. What's left is intriguing and relatively informative. But it never touches on the true marvel here: there was actually a massive ancient city in the Amazon. And we want to feel Fawcett's desperate desire to learn more about it.
|R E A D E R R E V I E W S|
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© 2017 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall
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