The Journey To Zed is a Good One
Review by Aaron Haughton
The Lost City of Z is a beautifully shot film that tells the amazing true story of Percy Fawcett, a British explorer during the early 20th century who disappears in the Amazon in 1925 in search of the city of Z (pron: Zed), a fabled civilization in the heart of the Amazon, the likes of which no white man has ever seen. While the story alone is enough to whet an appetite, Darius Khondji's cinematography will hold you like a moth to lamplight, allowing director James Gray to hypnotize you further with his touch-and-go poetics.
While a lot of critics will knock it's 2 hour run time, I never once felt uninterested or that there was much fat to really trim off. If it were any shorter, I think there would be a noticeable absence, and the journey wouldn't be quite the experience. Sure, it does take a bit before it really gets moving, and there is the occasional scene that feels somewhat misplaced, but it always drives the narrative forward towards its intended designation.
The performances in the film are solid. The overall mise en scène is stunning. There is no one particular aspect that really slouches or phones in. Charlie Hunnam gives a commanding performance as Fawcett, and Robert Patterson and Sienna Miller provide excellent support along the way. James Gray's direction at times exhibits flashes of Terrance Malick, Andrei Tarkovsky, Stanley Kubrick, and Werner Herzog with regard to poetic aesthetics, slowly dipping its toe into the more surreal as the film progresses.
The story wrestles with a lot thematically, but ultimately is the story of ideas at war and understanding. One of the standout scenes in the film is a large society meeting, wherein Fawcett proposes to a room of close-minded white men that he believes there to be evidence of an ancient city that may very well pre-date their own, showing both Man's "contemptuous and arrogant" ways juxtaposed against their need to explore the unknown. While the ending is already known (i.e. Fawcett goes missing and never returns back to home), the journey is full of unexpected marvels and brutality; it is sure to take you places, literally and figuratively. And, the last shot will leave you fulfilled, mixing the civilized world with the jungle in one beautiful shot.
Rating: 4.5 mysterious face sculptures outta 5.