Land of the lost
The Lost City of Z
James Gray’s The Lost City of Z is based on David Grann’s book about real-life British explorer Percy Fawcett. But onscreen it plays a lot like a high-toned British adventure novel from a century ago.
From 1903 through the mid-1920s, Fawcett made several voyages deep into the Amazonian jungle. As a period adventure tale, the film sometimes evokes the fiction of Rudyard Kipling, H. Rider Haggard, et al. But Gray’s vivid screen version also has a somewhat contemporary streak, via its perspectives of gender politics, social and racial prejudices, and the colonial entitlements of post-Victorian England.
Those voyages give the film its jungle adventure sequences, but Gray’s Lost City is also a kind of robust biopic, an ironic period piece and a low-key domestic melodrama. And the flair for daring and radical quests eventually rises, surprisingly and persuasively, to the poetic status of something almost mystical.
Charlie Hunnam is both heroic and humbly human in the Percy role. Sienna Miller has a feisty sparkle as his wife, Nina, a 19th century woman with 20th century aspirations. Robert Pattinson is especially good as Percy’s comrade in arms, Henry Costin. Bearded, brusque and reticent, Henry is both sidekick and alter ego, maybe even a Sancho Panza to Percy’s Don Quixote.