The true story of Percy Fawcett—the British explorer who plunged the depths of Amazonia at the turn of the 20th century to uncover evidence of an ancient civilization—is awesome in scope and substance.
With surveying experience as a British soldier, the Royal Geographic Society sends Fawcett (Charlie Hunnam), with the help of Henry Costin (Robert Pattinson), to map the Rio Verde dividing Bolivia and Brazil as an effort to diffuse a brewing war during the rubber boom. The initial expedition culminated in success greater than they’d set out for. The first outsiders to discover the spectacular source of the Rio Verde, Fawcett also uncovers carvings and old pottery shards pointing to the existence of a grand population pre-dating even the English and the possibility of turning history on its head.
Despite the scientific community ridiculing the idea of indigenous “savages” achieving such exalted heights, with the help of his open-minded wife (Sienna Miller), Fawcett earns the support for repeat expeditions. He and his team, with rudimentary resources, persevere through the threats of slave-driving rubber barons, snakes and piranhas and a tribe of cannibals, injury and disease, in search of this lost city he calls Z, “the ultimate piece of the human puzzle.”
His years away, missing the births and foundational years of his children, is compounded by the onset of World War One, but his dreams of Amazonia stoke a rare, altruistic faith and perseverance. More than a thirst for adventure, Fawcett’s intelligent understanding and appreciation of the indigenous population motivates him to find Z and elevate it to its rightful place rather than have it inadvertently destroyed by ignorant and short-sighted efforts by other Western forces.
After tapping into a deep appreciation for his father’s character and constitution while witnessing his recovery from trench-warfare injuries, a final father-and-son expedition is launched for Z culminating in a wrenching and awe-inspiring fashion.
This epic story is balanced by a nuanced and natural drama. Fawcett’s internal depths and struggles—value structures and belief systems—are examined through relationships with his expedition companions, authority figures, children and wife, who dedicated herself to sacrificing for and supporting Fawcett’s faithful endeavour as her own life’s work.
Running longer than two hours, there are times Fawcett’s story seems glossed over, but it’s an incredible lifetime to wrestle into one sitting. There are a couple instances early on that seem contrived in an attempt to make real and substantial points, such as a young Jack being completely unfamiliar with his father after only two years apart. Or when Fawcett is charged by an RGS member as being fanatically obsessed with Z, despite Hunnam portraying a rather logical and reasonable individual.
The fact filmmaker James Gray transported his entire crew and resources deep into the Colombian rainforest for ultimate authenticity is more than admirable and the resulting scenery and settings for this fantastic tale complete the experience.
Sat., July 8 – Tue., July 11
The Lost City of Z
Metro Cinema, $12