Combustible Celluloid
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With: Charlie Hunnam, Robert Pattinson, Sienna Miller, Tom Holland, Angus Macfadyen, Johann Myers
Written by: James Gray, based on a book by David Grann
Directed by: James Gray
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for violence, disturbing images, brief strong language and some nudity
Running Time: 141
Date: 04/14/2017

The Lost City of Z (2017)

3 Stars (out of 4)

Jungle Grim

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Filmmaker James Gray makes intelligent, good-looking, grown-up movies that are admirable but somehow rather reserved; this real-life adventure tale is a more sprawling work, but the result is similar.

In The Lost City of Z, which is based on a true story, Percy Fawcett (Charlie Hunnam) is military man who becomes interested in finding an ancient lost city, hidden in the Amazon. Accompanied by Corporal Henry Costin (Robert Pattinson), the first trip is dangerous; they face starvation, deadly natives, and vicious wildlife, but it reveals significant clues.

The second trip is hindered by the presence of James Murray (Angus Macfadyen), who is unequipped to handle the rigors of the jungle, uses up extra provisions, and endangers the mission. The third trip Fawcett makes with his son (Tom Holland), and the outcome is a mystery.

Director Gray (We Own the Night, Two Lovers, The Immigrant) is steeped in the cinema of the 1970s, and The Lost City of Z feels more like Werner Herzog's Aguirre, the Wrath of God (1972) than it does Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981). Yet it lacks Aguirre's madness; it's missing the kind of enthusiasm or obsession that might help drive a movie like this.

But there's no denying that it's expertly made. The Amazon footage is harrowing and realistic; you can feel the bugs buzzing around as well as the supreme heat, humidity, and exhaustion. The images have a high-class, measured realism and a complexity of character; no one here is merely a hero or a villain, not even Angus Macfadyen's Murray, whose scenes make up the most primal, emotional ones in the film (you really want him to suffer for his crimes).

This movie requires a little bit of thinking and involvement, but it's worth the effort.

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