The Lost City of Z: The best movie you probably haven’t seen this year.
First off, let me say I don’t typically review movies, at least nowhere other than inside my head. I am reviewing this movie here because of the way it touched me, and because it is a relatively true re-telling of actual events and a true-to-life adventure. So don’t expect a bunch of praise for actors and such; this is about the story and the production quality.
“We have lived an adventure most men can never dream of” That’s the kind of life I want to lead.
Z tells the story of British military officer Percy Fawcett, who gained worldwide fame with his explorations of South America throughout his adult life. The story begins with his slow-going military career and follows his journey as a cartographer for the Royal Geographic Society in Bolivia and Brazil. It is there that he meets fellow explorer and best friend, Henry Costin, who will accompany him on most of his trips. Fawcett and his group have adventures in the Amazon, go back to England, go back to the Amazon, go to war, and then back to the Amazon again. Adventures, drama and hijinks ensue.
Why I loved it
So many movies today show the jungle through wide expansive shots that are gorgeous and utopian, but which seem unrealistically airy and open when you see close-ups of characters (I am looking at you, “Tarzan” and “Kong: Skull Island”). Z is nothing like that; it shows the jungle as dense, dark, claustrophobic and dangerous. That’s how the rain forest is – scary, especially to outsiders.
The tone and filming of Z draws you into life at the turn of the 20th century, down to the finest details. The way of life, societal norms, the WWI setting and the European beliefs are spot on.
The film does a great job sticking to historical accuracy as much as possible. Yes, Hollywood takes some liberties, such as combining his eight Amazon explorations into three, and making Fawcett a much more understandable character. This movie is a great history lesson.
Why you should go
I had a surprising guest accompany me to see this movie – my teenage son Groover. While he has interesting taste in hairstyles, he is a typical teenage male. Because I’d read the book on which the film is based, I was a little dubious that the movie would hold his attention (because let’s face it, a 1900s-era adventure, docudrama is gonna be kinda slow). As it turns out, Groover was as mesmerized as I was, which gave us topics for hours of discussion about the movie and the history behind it. Toward the end of the movie, Fawcett tells his grown son, who accompanies him on his final expedition, “we have lived an adventure most men can never dream of.” That’s the kind of life I want to lead, and the kind I also want my son to lead.