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A Great Obsession

Saturday, May 27, 2017

The Lost City Of Z
Director: James Gray
Cast: Charlie Hunnam, Robert Pattinson, Sienna Miller and others
Rating: * * *

It is considered politically incorrect by today’s standards to lionise white men (and some women), who crashed into other civilisations in the name of exploring, treating alien races as lab rats and destroying their indigenous cultures; still there is something brave and heroic about that sense of adventure that took curious people into uncharted regions, shrugging aside the dangers. Colonel Percival Fawcett (Charlie Hunnam) was one such, and James Gray’s handsome period film, 'The Lost City Of Z', is based on David Grann's 2009 book about his life. Explorers, particularly British ones, had an admirable capacity to put up with hardships in their quest for the unknown. In some cases, like Fawcett’s, the adventure (that began with the desire to raise himself to the hidebound British aristocracy) became an obsession. He goes on an expedition to the wilds of South America, with the backing of the Royal Geographical Society, leaving behind his wife Nina (Sienna Miller). With him are his army comrade, Henry Costin (Robert Pattison, almost unrecognisable), assistants and a South American slave, Willis (Johann Myers). He has been warned that nobody returns from there. There is danger from both human and animals in the wilds—and this portion is shot beautifully by Darius Khondji—the feeling evoked in the audience is that of wonder mingled with fear for the safety of the intrepid explorers. Fawcett finds some shards of ancient pottery and etchings and is convinced there is lost city out there in the deep Amazon forest. World War I intervenes and then, well into middle age, he plans another expedition with his son Jack (Tom Holland), so convinced is he of the existence of Z. The real Fawcett disappeared in the Amazon (in 1925) and was never found. Gray adds a touch of mystery to the story. Brad Pitt and Benedict Cumberbatch skipped playing the strong, Oscar-bait lead to be served as producers on the film. Charlie Hunnam is not a star, but he brings to the role a robust energy and sincerity that it required. Sienna Miller shines in a brief role. This is a solid, old-fashioned (in the best sense of the term) action-adventure—genuine, instead of comic book-like the Raiders or Mummy films—that is worth a watch.

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