James Gray deserves a pat on his back for taking the plunge, to a different nation, with utmost comfort and conviction.
Director: James Gray
Cast: Charlie Hunnam, Robert Pattinson, Sienna Miller, Tom Holland, Angus Macfadyen, Ian McDiarmid, Franco Nero
Man’s unquenchable thirst to explore the unprecedented territories of this mammoth world and emerge a hero is chronicled well in this adaptation of the 2009 David Grann book, set against the colonial era of the Great Britain. Commissioned by the Royal Geographical Society, Percy Fawcett, an explorer serving as a Major in the British Army, who is constantly scampering to go up the social ladder, sets out to Bolivia with his crew of five men to map the uncharted territories with the neighbouring Brazil. But amid snakes, scarcity of food, thick forests and piranhas of the Amazon, he stumbles upon something that later goes on to become his greatest obsession, exploring which, he would like to believe, is his life’s purpose, his ‘destiny’.
The film has captured the snobbish tone and arrogant demeanour of white men living in the early 1900s well. Charlie Hunnam’s act as the undaunted explorer, who abandons his family at the slightest opportunity of attaining personal glory, is inexplicably incandescent. As the selfish seeker of the unknown and son of a disgraced aristocrat looking for approval, from the society and his self, is annoyingly charming. Much like the real Fawcett, Charlie embarks on a journey with Henry Costin (Robert Pattinson), with the hope of shunning his scarred past and exhibiting heroism in the face of death, only to find himself drawn to a lost civilisation that existed long before the whites could brag about having discovered the existence of practically everything that’s ever walked the surface of this planet. James Gray deserves a pat on his back for taking the plunge, to a different nation, across a very gloomy era, with utmost comfort and conviction. Apartheid to slavery, Gray has stripped naked ‘the gentlemen’ of the 20th century and how. Unlike ‘The Immigrant,’ Gray must not have contemplated taking the tried and tested route and went out-and-out on the theme. It is not surprising that he retained his ‘The Immigrant’ cinematographer Darius Khondji for this ‘adventure of a lifetime’, for he has shown the transition from a quite, often secluded British neighbourhood to an unforgiving, nasty Amazonian forest, very smoothly. The intricate details, both in cinematography and depiction of the Indians, are accurate to the T.
After numerous failed expeditions and a gradually fracturing family life, Fawcett settles for a phase of domestication, while still struggling with dreams, rather hallucinations, of the lost city of Z that he was so close to discovering, yet so far from it. The World War I return Lt Colonel Fawcett sees a ray of hope in his teenage son Jack (Tom Holland) who cajoles his ever-sacrificing mother Nina (Sienna Miller) into letting him take his father finish the adventure he started years ago. Not-so-surprisingly, she agrees. The scene between Holland and Miller, where he persuades his mother, is moving and you see a very different side of the fine actress. Not to forget, her last outing in ‘Live by the Night’, as an alluring diva, was just as impeccable. You wouldn’t expect a director of Gray’s stature to underuse a revelation like Holland but he is guilty of the crime. However, we all can seek solace in the fact that the baton of ‘Spiderman’ franchise has now been passed on to his able hands. As for Robert Pattinson, he is unrecognisable, aloof and withdrawn as the right-hand man of Fawcett- something one would not expect out of a very expressionless, lame vampire. If anyone is going to benefit from this film, it is the once mushy Pattinson. His transformation from a sissy man-child to a profound explorer is out of this world.
‘The Lost City of Z’ is elementarily a complex plot and the painfully slow transition between shots is unbearable. Even heroism needs to be shown at a moderate pace, if not thundering. And the protagonist marching towards the ‘destination’, all by himself, without a tinge of guilt on missing out on all the major events- like his children’s birth, is very unearthly. No man, however oblivious, would ever choose abandonment for the unknown. A little empathy, just a hint of remorse would have made substantial amount of difference.