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Times of India
Set in the early 1900s, ‘The Lost City of Z’ tells the story of Percy Fawcett (Charlie Hunnam) and his unexpected discovery – proof of an ancient South American civilization, in this biographical drama directed by James G.
Creating a biographical action-adventure drama understandably presents a lot of challenges, namely: staying true to the historical figure being depicted, and to the series of events in his life that make him distinctive enough for a biopic. Director James Gray chooses to tell Percy Fawcett’s story from his early days as a British officer, his interactions with the Royal Geographical Society, his voyages into the Amazon forest, his service during WWI – all interspersed between his personal life and the relationships with his family. At first, Percy’s motivations appear to be an attempt to ‘restore his family name’, gradually evolving into something much grander and altruistic. If this appears to be a lot to juggle between – you’re onto something.
It’s not unusual for biopics to paint across the vast canvas of a person’s life, but James Gray could have benefitted by penning a tauter, leaner screenplay. The film feels stretched out at over two and a half hours, and wouldn’t be as hard to sit through if the lead character’s evolution was depicted with some charisma to elevate the protagonist's passion and motivation. Charlie Hunnam adds ample substance to Fawcett, but key elements of his persona - his drive, and curiosity to discover a new civilization, and the conflict faced by leaving his family behind on each journey, don’t come across as profoundly as intended. Hunnam is surrounded by a more versatile cast - Sienna Miller as his wife Nina and (surprise) Robert Pattinson as fellow explorer Henry Costin, each have moments that shine, although it is Tom Holland as his son Jack who adds more emotional weight towards the end.
There are memorable moments even if the film fails to build on them to keep the momentum going, and to justify such a bloated runtime. Gorgeous cinematography and inspired performances are thrown off by clunky editing to make ‘The Lost City of Z’ an unbalanced, but fascinating watch.