The Lost City of Z full movie review - Exploitation and exploration
Based on the true story of British explorer Percy Fawcett, who made several expeditions to the lost city of Z, believed to be the remains of El Dorado in the Brazilian jungle.
The movie follows three of these expeditions and first picks up his life with a long introduction from his military career onwards. The movie becomes only interesting with the start of his first map making expedition on the border of Bolivia and Brazil in 1906. Based on documentary and field research (pottery finds), Fawcett became ever more convinced that a complex civilization had existed there. The movie then touches upon a second expedition initiated by the Royal Geographical Society that lead to controversy about his role in that expedition. The first World War comes in between before he makes his last expedition in 1925 with his son.
The script is based on the fascinating book by David Grann, who visited the region in 2005 and came back with interesting findings about Fawcett's expedition. By now, Fawcett has turned into an icon of exploring ancient civilizations, making its way into popular culture, Indiana Jones and The Lost World come to mind.
The movie and script is however too obvious for the story at hand. It is painting by numbers, going from phase A to B in Fawcett's life without any intelligent storytelling, ending up with a movie that I first thought was made for TV or online. Compare this to the classic Herzog movies Aguirre or Fitzcarraldo, and it is clear what went wrong here: Being about exploration, the movie itself shies away from exploring cinematic possibilities and just plays it safe. Wouldn't it for example not be far more interesting to just focus on that final expedition and make the multiple accounts into a movie? Why Pitt's Plan B saw anything in this is beyond me, as the company has by now a reputation of risk-taking (and often being awarded for that).
But don't get me wrong: The movie is still watchable and the story itself is enough to keep your attention. And it is very nice to see Darius Khondji popping up here as DoP, you can still see his groundbreaking work in Se7en shining through.