The Lost City of Z

Studio: Amazon Studios & Bleecker Street
Directed by James Gray

Apr 13, 2017 Web Exclusive
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In the early 20th century, British officer Percy Fawcett is asked by his government to help secure the nation’s interests in a border dispute in South America. He’s warned that this will require trailblazing through uncharted depths of the jungle, that he will have to endure snakes, savages, and disease, but if he happens to survive, he will restore the family name which had been muddied by his alcoholic father. He agrees, and, in South America, he and his crew immediately encounters the aforementioned snakes, savages, and disease (and also piranhas), but he still manages to lead his crew to a waterfall that somehow symbolizes a mission complete. From there, he stumbles upon some old artifacts and writings, and by the time he returns to England, has amassed evidence that somewhere buried in the jungle is a lost city of Z (pronounced “zed” by the Brits). Few people believe him, and the rest of his life becomes a quest to find the city--even at the cost of time spent with his wife and children.

The Lost City of Z is an oddly structured movie. The setup lays the groundwork for something that might resemble Apocalypse Now, and it continues along that path for the first hour of the film. The story pivots, however, into a film that more closely resembles Close Encounters or JFK, focusing on a man whose obsession transcends passion and alienates those around him. This obsession, however, is not driven by vanity. As additional forays into South America result in communication and friendships with the natives, and as “civilized” society plunges into the horrors of the 20th century, Z becomes less of an archeological wonder than an abstract idea of a peaceful, if not utopian, lifestyle whose discovery could enlighten a society that’s turned unnatural and violent at heart. What we have here are essentially two different films, and I’m not fully convinced much of the first is required to reap the benefits of a far more rich and ambitious second. In many ways, it has the opposite effect, numbing you to the wonderful ideas and depths, leaving you with the feeling of a missed opportunity.

Author rating: 5/10

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