“THE LOST CITY OF Z” My rating: B
141 minutes | MPAA rating: PG-13
There are really two movies at work in James Gray’s “The Lost City of Z.”
One unfolds in the well-appointed parlors, bucolic fields and imposing halls of turn-of-the-last-century England.
The other plays out in a world of daunting jungles, piranha-infested rivers and unpredictable Amazonian cannibals.
Holding those two realities together is the real-life figure of Percy Faucett, an Englishman who embodied his era’s spirit of discovery, scientific exploration and a seemingly superhuman need to experience physical challenges and personal perils.
“The Lost City of Z” (the Z is pronounced “zed,” Brit-style) is the most expansive, grandest vision of writer/director Gray’s career (“Little Odessa,” “The Yards,” “The Immigrant”), achieving at times the sweep of a David Lean epic.
And as is the case with Lean, it sometimes seems that the epic overpowers the human elements.
We first meet Faucett (Charlie Hunnam, about 180 degrees away from his biker Hamlet in cable’s “The Sons of Anarchy”) as a struggling young military officer whose prospects are limited, in the words of one aristocratic snob, because he has been “rather unfortunate in his choice of ancestors.”
Faucett gets a shot at fame and glory when he’s asked by the Royal Geographic Society to travel to the Amazon to prevent a war. Seems the Bolivians and the Brazilians cannot agree on an official border between their two nations; Faucett is to survey the impenetrable jungle and set a boundary that will ensure the peace.
Accompanied by his equally adventurous assistant, Henry Costin (Robert Pattinson in full beard mode), the two not only accomplish their mission but stumble across tantalizing evidence that somewhere deep in the wilderness are the ruins of a centuries-old city, a metropolis that would have been bigger and more sophisticated than anything in Europe at that time.
Returning to Britain a national hero, Faucett touts his belief in the lost city, leading to accusations that he has fallen for an “El Dorado”-type myth. That attitude is as much racist as it is scientific…Faucett’s belief that the Amazon Indians once had a world-class civilization doesn’t go down well with imperialists who embrace the white man’s duty to raise and/or exploit the world’s great unwashed. (more…)