PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Now here’s a movie that takes its time.
Not that The Lost City of Z (pronounced “zed”) is slow. It’s just that its deliberate, decidedly old-fashioned pacing is appropriate and well worth waiting for.
TLCOZ is an action-adventure biodrama and a tale of obsession from writer-director James Gary (Little Odessa, The Yards, We Own the Night, Two Lovers, The Immigrant), based on the nonfiction best-seller by David Grann, about the ill-fated expedition into the Amazon jungle of British explorer Peter Fawcett, an anthropologist and Colonel in the British Artillery, played by Charlie Hunnam.
An explorer of courage and passion, Fawcett journeys into the Amazon at the dawn of the twentieth century in search of evidence of an unknown advanced civilization that may have at some point have inhabited the region.
But the scientific establishment at the time ridicules him and his beliefs, referring to this “inferior” theoretical population as “savages.”
Undeterred, Fawcett presses on, battling the elements, accompanied by Robert Pattinson as his aide-de-camp, leaving behind a disappointed but nonetheless supportive wife, played by Sienna Miller — who wishes she could go on adventures with her husband but realizes that their sexist society doesn’t take kindly to the notion — and their son, played by Tom Holland (the latest Spider-Man), one of three Fawcett kids.
Fawcett has long since decided to devote his life to this pursuit, so he returns to the rainforest multiple times, ostensibly to chart the country but ultimately in search of proof that his beliefs are valid.
Then in 1925 Fawcett mysteriously disappears.
TLCOZ is handsomely shot, with grand sweep but sufficient intimacy, and an immersive narrative.
What Gray wants to occupy us with over the film’s 2-1/2 absorbing hours is the question of why a person would risk everything in the pursuit of this kind of exploration. And he largely succeeds.
But the necessity of sticking to the facts in this true story probably hinders Gray’s ability to craft a satisfying ending, which some viewers may feel robbed of.
Nonetheless, what has preceded the finale is a fine foray of epic-scale film-making.
And Hunnam helps his director out by turning in a career-best-so-far performance as the driven, fixated, fame-seeking protagonist, an accomplished man whose reach surely exceeds his grasp.
So we’ll discover 3 stars out of 4. A tribute to the exploratory spirit, The Lost City of Z is a real-life adventure in the classic mold.