Director James Gray’s adaptation of the true story of Col. Percival Fawcett’s obsessive exploration of the Amazon in the 1920s to discover the lost civilisation of ‘Z’ is somewhat muted and detached. Almost anti-climactic in its slow perusal of the dangers of the jungle, the film isn’t striking nor particularly exciting, but does evoke a certain sense of careful introspection, a deliberate aplomb.
With Charlie Hunnam as Col. Fawcett, Sienna Miller as his wife Nina and Tom Holland as their son Jack, and Robert Pattinson as Fawcett’s hirsute assistant, it perhaps promised to be more thrilling than it was. Some critics have condemned Gray’s efforts as “out of date” and tedious, while others have nothing but praise for the “immediate classic”. It seems that a middle-ground must be struck; while primarily sluggish, it is as if this almost lethargic plot has a careful precision that builds into the narrative. It’s a complex plot in which blinking results in a loss of understanding.
Conjuring unwelcome colonial elements of Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness and the intensity of Rudyard Kipling’s The Explorer, The Lost City of Z appears to be an intertwining of the two. Customary images of voyages upriver, arrows from the undergrowth, sun-bleached skulls left as a warning, and suggestions of cannibalism are included. Whether the undertones of British imperialism were desired or not, there is the implication of positive colonialism despite Fawcett’s primary explorative aim.
Despite its intensity, much of the film is, overall forgettable aside from a few short scenes where Sienna Miller shines in her role. The desperate passion of Fawcett’s exploration is juxtaposed with the slow plot, which perhaps results in the varied audience receptions. While reflective and thought-provoking, it seems a little exaggerative to proclaim it as a classic just yet.
Image courtesy of Studiocanal