Delivering American University's news and views since 1925. | Tuesday, February 19, 2019

With confused plot, "The Lost City of Z" falls flat

“The Lost City of Z,” director James Gray’s latest film, based on the 2009 non-fiction bestseller of the same name by author David Grann, follows British explorer Percy Fawcett at the dawn of the 20th century as he manages family, duty to country and his wanderlust for a mysterious Amazonian city.

As a soldier in the British Army, Fawcett (Charlie Hunnam) is unexpectedly whisked away by the Royal Geographic Society to Bolivia in order to chart a new map to prevent a war with neighboring Brazil. Through some clumsy exposition, it’s made clear that Fawcett is motivated by a desire to bring glory back to his family’s name. While not a new premise by any means, the movie fails to fully realize the emotional and storytelling potential of the character because the moments of characterization feel largely hokey and wooden.

The same can be said for the supporting cast. Fawcett’s aide-de-camp Henry Costin (Robert Pattinson), wife Nina (Sienna Miller) and eldest son Jack (Tom Holland) serve as little more than clichés that Hunnam is juxtaposed with to show how strong his desire to find the lost city is.

While largely marketed as a river movie in the spirit of “Raiders of the Lost Ark” or “Heart of Darkness,” the repeated jumps in time and place to create the larger narrative around Percy Fawcett’s quest only serve to distract from what gives the movie promise. The scenes where Fawcett and co. are riding down river, watched by natives, serve as the most fun and engaging moments, despite being few and far between.

James Gray’s attempt to weave together a tale of a fractured family, exploration in an venture to fill a personal void and the cost of serving country ultimately falls flat in almost all regards. The cast isn’t given a script that is able to set a believable tone, the camerawork is uninspired and the story is as unfocused as it is overly long. There is a good movie somewhere in there, but like Fawcett’s city, it was lost long ago.

Grade: C-

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