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The Lost City of Z

The Lost City of Z, 2016

In the early 1900s, Percy Fawcett (Charlie Hunnam) is sent to South America to help survey the border between two countries to help settle border disagreements. While there, one of the indigenous people he has hired as a guide tells him the story of a lost ancient city deep in the forest. During his expedition, accompanied by a man named Henry Costin (Robert Pattinson), Fawcett discovers small pieces of pottery and figurines that lead him to believe the story of the lost city is real. Thus begins a decade long obsession with finding the lost city, something that puts him at odds with his fellow explorers and strains his relationship with his wife Nina (Sienna Miller) and his children (the oldest son is played by Tom Holland).

This movie was very up and down for me. It is biographical, and while it seems that they stuck to the chronology of his life, it meant that the film kept bouncing back between South America and Europe.

The scenes in South America are very strong. The film manages to convey the danger of the forest and of hostile indigenous tribes without overly exoticizing the land or the people. I cannot go into specifics, but the final 20 minutes or so were beautiful and haunting.

The scenes in Europe are less compelling. Fawcett's family is understandably upset at how much time he spends away from them. There is a medium length sequence that takes place during World War One. The scenes are well acted, but they didn't click with me the same way as the parts in the forest. There is one stand-out sequence in which, during a respite from the fighting in the trenches, Fawcett has his palm read by a psychic.

The film looks great. I read that some critics felt that Hunnam's performance was flat and uncharismatic. I felt as if I understood what he was going for--a man who does not entirely feel at home in his native country, and yet can only really approach South America as an invader/outsider. I will agree, however, that too much of what's happening with Fawcett feels as though it is under the surface. Pattinson and Miller do really well in their respective supporting roles, but it seems as if the most important things happening with Fawcett are truly internal, and so the relationships with the other characters don't have the necessary heft. At several points, supporting characters just vanished from the film and I hardly noticed.

A decent film with a haunting final act that I can't stop thinking about.