The Lost City of Z: NZIFF Review
More a contemplative adventure than a full-on swash-buckling colonial romp, The Lost City of Z sees a quietly soft-spoken Charlie Hunnan taking on the mantle of Brit explorer Percy Fawcett.
Unadorned of medals, and with a father who squandered the familial name, Fawcett is struggling to make his place at the turn of the century in military postings. So, when called up to the Royal Geographical Society in lieu of his mapping skills, and surrounded by fellow explorers making their own names, Fawcett feels the pull of the opportunity to provide a better life and reputation for his wife (Sienna Miller) and young family.
Posted to the Amazonian jungle and teamed with Robert Pattinson's Henry Costin, Fawcett finds his journey is blighted and simultaneously enlivened by the possibility a new civilisation lives deep within. But on returning, his claims are scoffed out, and sensing once again the chance to rid his name of ridicule, he sets out again on a quest that will consume his life.
Director James Gray isn't interested in making The Lost City of Z a thumping adventure of derring-do. In fact, it brings to mind elements of Embrace of The Serpent from a few years back at the festival - which is no bad thing.
In the wash, it's the complete opposite, a slow-moving exploration of what makes the explorer tick and the demons that consume those who've been thwarted for generations.
Frustrations among the fronds of the jungle and realistic problems mark out The Lost City Of Z as something both grand and equally languorous. Hunnam's quiet approach to Fawcett makes his hero feel infinitely more human, and when he's tackling the mores of society and the hypocrisies of belief, Fawcett emerges as a more rounded and infinitely more plausible character. Plus Hunnam's flawed Fawcett as he rails against inequality but forbids his wife from joining them on the trail speaks well to the internal conflict of narrow-minded convictions.
There's a melancholy to this adventure and it seeps through every frame as the journey to capture the feeling or re-capture the belief of what lies unexplored is laid out. Gray consumes his screen with closeness within the jungle, which doesn't lead to claustrophobia but promotes a very real sense of belonging within.
Ultimately, there's a sprawl to The Lost City of Z which seeps through your eyes as you view. Its slow pace may put some off, but its realistic view of the adventure genre is a welcome touch in what could easily have been an overblown post-modern take on colonialism and distant beliefs.