I was quite surprised to discover that THE LOST CITY OF Z released unannounced last week in Sydney. It has sessions at both the Cremorne Orpheum and Dendy Newtown in Sydney and that’s it! Considering the cast is Charlie Hunnam, Robert Pattinson, Sienna Miller and my current fave, Tom Holland, I was expecting a slightly wider reach into the movie sphere. It’s an old school true story adventure drama set mostly in the Amazon. It has been released by the folks at StudioCanal, is rated M and runs for 141mins. 


The Lost City of Z Robert Pattinson image
Robert Pattinson




The Lost City of Z tells the incredible true story of British explorer Percy Fawcett, who journeys into the Amazon at the dawn of the 20th century and discovers evidence of a previously unknown, advanced civilization that may have once inhabited the region. Despite being ridiculed by the scientific establishment who regard indigenous populations as “savages,” the determined Fawcett – supported by his devoted wife, son and aide de camp returns time and again to his beloved jungle in an attempt to prove his case, culminating in his mysterious disappearance in 1925.


The Lost City of Z Sienna Miller and Tom Mulheron image
Sienna Miller and Tom Mulheron



James Gray, known for such dramas as LITTLE ODESSA, THE YARDS, and THE IMMIGRANT, was excited at the prospect of turning David Grann’s book on Percy Fawcett into a film, but he knew it would be an extremely ambitious undertaking. “When I read the book, it seemed almost impossible to make,” he said. “The story involved the United Kingdom, World War I and, of course, the jungle. I thought, “Any movie that’s going to be worth anything has to cover all three of those big things, and that sounds impossible – so I’d like to try.”

He definitely achieved his goals but Gray bit off way more than he could chew. THE LOST CITY OF Z could have been the Oscar winning film of 2017/2018 if it went for another 40mins, had a much better lead actor, bigger budget and the screenplay was improved. The first half is meant to be the most exciting but it floundered constantly and kicked into a new, way more impressive gear, just as I was considering walking out.

The look of the movie is a piece of art however, cinematographer Darius Khondji (DELICATESAN, AMOUR, OKJA), shot on film in the middle of the jungle. It cost an extra $750000 to use film but they discovered the humidity was destroying all their electronic equipment so digital cameras would have been useless. I couldn’t get over the beauty of the movie, it far exceeded the worth of the rest of the movie.


I never knew anything about Perry Fawcett, but the man is seen as an inspiration to adventurers the world over and a hero in Indiana Jones canon. I believe the allure of him is that he was never found, it now has a romanticism attached to it that is hard to ignore. It’s sad that everything in the movie cruises on so swiftly that the impact of this amazing man is lost.


The Lost City of Z Charlie Hunnam Tom Holland image
Charlie Hunnam and Tom Holland



The WW1 scenes gave the impression a lot of it ended up on cutting room floor. The Amazon sections are where the movie really shines but it needed more, it lacked the soul of being in the actual Amazon. And considering what they went through to make it this film deserved more. Hunnam had a large bug burrow into his ear, Holland broke his nose and went swimming unknowingly with black caimans (some of the biggest alligators in the world) and the Amazon flooded onset nearly washing the entire cast and crew away. This needs a docco about the making of!!


Originally Brad Pitt was playing Fawcett but he decided an Englishman needed to play him and he oddly remained as producer but went off to film WORLD WAR Z. Then Benedict Cumberbatch was signed to play but scheduling conflicts saw him depart and finish DOCTOR STRANGE. How they then ended up with Hunnam is beyond me. He has his place and he has his looks but a leading man he is not, he just lacks a good range and required charisma. I loved PACIFIC RIM, SONS OF ANARCHY, (even) KING ARTHUR  but in this he is completely underwhelming. I am dumbfounded they didn’t use Robert Pattinson as Fawcett and Hunnam as his right hand man, Costin. Pattinson never disappoints and his talent far exceeds Hunnam.

When THE LOST CITY OF Z drags to the point of annoyance it switches into a new gear and Tom Holland joins the cast. His brief performance outshone Hunnams in the criminally minuscule time we had him and that little fake moustache made him look so much older.

Sienna Miller’s character, Nina Fawcett (aka Perry’s wife), was a historical woman worthy of her own movie. But her story and rare odd scenes went against the flow of telling Perry’s story. While Miller wanted more out of her character besides playing the wife, in the end I honestly thought it was detrimental to the story Gray was trying to tell and mostly she did just play the wife.

Angus Macfadyen just shat me as James Murray, his performance was as annoying as Murray was to Fawcett’s career. But it was good to see Emperor Palpatine, I mean Ian McDiarmid, back on the screen again.


The Lost City of Z Charlie Hunnam Tom Holland image
Charlie Hunnam and Tom Holland



The movie does more than provide adventure, it shows us what it means to stand by what you believe in, follow your dreams, and go beyond your limits. But it presents it all quite poorly and director, James Gary, has bitten off way more than he could chew. If THE LOST CITY OF Z had more budget, went APOCALYPSE NOW in its desire to be as fantastic as it deserved, had some screenplay tweaking and had a better lead then this could have won every Oscar for the season. Alas it is quite average and not what Perry Fawcett’s biopic demanded.





 owns, writes and edits Salty Popcorn and Spooning Australia. He is a movie, food, restaurant, wine, chocolate, bacon, burger and brussels sprouts addict. He is a member of the Australian Film Critics Association and has been in the  industry for 26yrs. Furthermore he loves watching people trip over and is Leonardo DiCaprio’s biggest fan. 

** Images used are courtesy of various sources on Google or direct from the distributor or publisher. Credit has been given to photographers where known – images will be removed on request.