There are few times nowadays when movies immerse to the point where you feel like you’ve lived actually lived in a certain world or time. Sure that can be harder (or unnecessary) for films set in the modern day, but it’s very exciting when period films – like James Gray’s The Lost City of Z – makes you step back and realize you’re not really living in the early 1900s like you may have thought during its masterful 141 minutes.
The Lost City of Z tells the true story of explorer Percy Fawcett (Charlie Hunnam), who sets out to find a legendary city of gold located somewhere in the Amazon. He leaves his loving wife Nina (Sienna Miller) and son Jack in the hopes of not only redeeming his family’s discredited name, but satisfying his deep-rooted passion for discovering such a fabled piece of history. The journey takes place over multiple decades, all of which are captured beautifully by Gray.
The director, who most recently helmed the fantastic historical drama The Immigrant, captures the early 1900s just as effectively as he did in that film. The Lost City of Z is enveloped in a rustic, sepia color, giving many shots the look of a decades-old photograph or long-lost painting. Gray is, of course, helped much in-part by cinematographer Darius Khondji, who’s recent works like Midnight in Paris, Amour, and 2017’s Okja can speak for themselves. What’s also fortunate is that the film’s undeniable visual elegance is backed up by strong writing and performances – not to mention an always-present highlight of inspired storytelling.
Being that The Lost City of Z manages to be both a fascinating historical epic and an intimate character-driven film, it often thrives when one accentuates the other. But even with that said, a character can’t thrive without a good actor behind it. And this film is full of many rich performances. Hunnam, in particular, who is known best for blockbusters such as Pacific Rim (2013) and this year’s King Arthur: Legend of the Sword, bring his absolute best in playing Percy. Even on paper the character is wonderfully confident and complex character, but Hunnam adds another level onto the role. He is also accompanied by other strong performers like Miller, Robert Pattinson (Twilight, The Rover), and Spider-Man: Homecoming star Tom Holland. Everyone here shows that they are more than just a pretty face for summertime fun – they deserve to be in this film.
Another aspect that I really loved – but seems to be divisive – about The Lost City of Z is its complete commitment to the deep period immersion. Much of this is due to Gray’s excellent direction, but his classical pacing and austere storytelling style could leave some wanting more. However, I found this decision to be very beneficial to the film in more ways than one. It takes its time (if not too much) to bring the viewer in, admire the exotic locations, and study the performances and characters. I think Gray’s auteur style is very refreshing in a day-and-age of frantic, overly-kinetic films. You may not – or at least it may be hard to adjust to at first – but I urge you to give films like this one a try.
There are many more points I could bring up about The Lost City of Z, but hopefully this will be enough to persuade you. It did, as this review’s title shows, recently come out on home media, so I’m making it even easier on you. I hope the film will be considered come Oscar season, but it appears as though it’s been all but forgotten. Like its strong performers, it’s earned its right to be among the best of the year. And it should be treated as such.
The Lost City of Z is currently available on Blu-ray, DVD and Digital HD.
P.S. Yes, we are changing to a 5-star rating system rather than the previous 4-star. So there.