By Adam Ray Palmer
Today’s review is of film that first debuted to a rapture of applause at the 67th Berlinale earlier this year. Now, you can catch it at the mighty Phoenix cinema in Leicester.
Screening to a packed audience waiting to be whisked away to an Amazon city, James Gray writes and directs this lengthy piece of cinema that transports you to a place unknown.
The Lost City of Z stars Charlie Hunnam, Sienna Miller, Tom Holland and Robert Pattinson…
Based on David Grann’s novel, The Lost City of Z tells the true story of British explorer Percy Fawcett (Charlie Hunnam), who travels into the Amazon to discover something undiscovered. He finds an advanced civilisation that perhaps once inhabited the region. Fawcett, with support from his wife (Miller), son (Holland) and his companion (Pattinson), returns repeatedly even though scientists ridicule him about his discovery who regard indigenous populations as “savages”. After returning one too many times to his beloved jungle, he mysteriously disappears in 1925.
After debuting last month at Berlinale, The Lost City of Z now hits cinemas on general release to serve as a nice opener for blockbuster season. City of Z is very much in the middle of the road in terms of cinematic gravitas and having a deeper message at its core, similarly to Logan. The narrative is linear focused, but certainly not straightforward with audiences being transported back and forth from the UK and Amazonia over the course of 25 or so years.
Bringing this story to life on screen is a flurry of British talent including Charline Hunnam, Robert Pattinson, Sienna Miller and the young Spider-Man-to-be Tom Holland. Pattinson and Miller impressed me in their outings here. Pattinson is consistently delivering great work whether it be leading man or supporting – many scenes were stolen here by Robert. However, there’s two incredible poignant sequences in City of Z (the last scene and an hour in) with both being helmed by the severely underrated Sienna Miller. She’s subtle, independent but incredibly vulnerable as her husband leaves her for many years on his expedition of the Amazon.
For me though, I find the casting of Charlie Hunnam a little misjudged. His over-pronunciation of his words wore very thin after ten minutes. He didn’t grapple with his role as much as I hoped. He’s understated in this but I wanted a bit more of an interesting character to shine through. I would have loved a role reversal between Charlie and Robert.
Many cinephiles have said to catch this movie in a cinema and I concur. It’s aesthetically pleasing and gives an all-round cinematic experience with the immersive sound and grainy imagery. It’s reminiscent of Apocalypse Now or Deerhunter in terms of how the picture pleas for a big screen showing. City of Z frustratingly feels limited though, with scenes restricted to only the Amazon or courtrooms in England. There’s a huge story to tell here and I imagine James Gray wanted to focus on high level aspects of it. This left the audience with attractive and entrancing cinema in the forests, but a bore back in Blighty.
Overall, The Lost City of Z is less an enthralling epic but more a thought-provoking piece – and I actually welcome that. There’s a relevant undercurrent to this piece as Percy’s tale comes from the sheer lack of ability to even entertain the idea that non-white people are capable of building a society for themselves. This is revisited multiple times throughput as Fawcett determinedly and rightfully tries to educate the ignorant elders. This layered theme offers the audience more to think about whilst being take down an Amazon river. With the lengthy runtime, a mixed bag of roles and a stop-start hindrance throughout – I can’t ever be left to be ‘wowed’ by this piece.
Cineroom’s Rating: 3 Stars
The Lost City of Z is screening at the Phoenix Leicester now – certificate 15