You know what happens when you get Charlie Hunnam, Robert Pattinson, Sienna Miller, Ian McDiarmid, Angus Macfadyen, and Tom Holland together in a film about the search for a lost civilization in South America during the early 20th century?
In seeing the trailer for James Gray’s “The Lost City of Z” (and remember: the “Z” is British, so it is pronounced “Zed”), adapted from David Grann’s book of the same name, I was incredibly interested in this true story of Percy Fawcett (Hunnam), a member of the British Army who wants to be respected by his peers even after he is constantly judged on his family’s past. When he gets the chance to clear his family’s name and take his rightful place amongst Her Majesty’s elite, he jumps at the possibility of mapping a large undiscovered section of the Amazon along with some companions like Henry Costin (Robert Pattinson) and Arthur Manley (Edward Ashley). He also has to keep his home fires burning as his wife, Nina (Miller), is raising their children, including Jack (Holland), who starts to grow resentment for his father for being gone so long.
For a film that runs almost two and a half hours, nothing really happens here. All of the action that is shown in the trailer is about all of the action that there is in the film itself. There is a LOT of plot exposition done through conversations that just over and over again reinforce motivations that are easily established elsewhere. At first, I wondered if my boredom with this film was because it was my third film of the day during the 11th Dallas International Film Festival as well as a 10:30 PM showing, but it turns out that amongst the people that I know that have seen it, I am not alone. Sure, the Rotten Tomatoes ranking is not indicative of this opinion, but they have also not really been in line with more than my share of opinions on films as of late either. The performances work for what is on the page, but with this cast, I expected them to make the best out of anything that was put in front of them.
Visually, “The Lost City of Z” works very well by “Se7en” and “The Beach” veteran cinematographer Darius Khondji, with on-location shooting that at times had me enthralled, but not enough to overcome a story that moved slower than a turtle on an oil slick. I cannot use the dress-on-a-pig analogy here, but it is definitely in the ball park.
And as strange as this may seem, I do wonder if there is a “director’s cut” of this film that may make it more enjoyable for me because I find it hard to believe that what had to have been a good sized budget was used on what ended up on the screen. I would have liked to have seen more of what the expedition entailed than what was spent there, but that may be more of a personal want than anything else. If you are interested in this story, I am sure it represents its source material well, but otherwise, take a hard pass here and spend that time on something more worthwhile.