"Undone by Obsession and Evil Paganism"
What You Need To Know:
THE LOST CITY OF Z isn’t an action-packed thrill ride like other such historical adventures. It focuses more on the human side of its story. The movie is particularly strong in its atmosphere, with lush cinematography and intriguing details such as an outdoor opera house the explorers stumble upon in the jungle. In the end, the hero in THE LOST CITY OF Z is undone by his Romantic obsession and by false pagan religion, which takes the form of a tribe of ruthless cannibals. So, MOVIEGUIDE® advises extreme caution.
(PaPaPa, PCPC, RoRo, RHRH, B, Fe, OO, L, VV, N, A, MM) Worldview Very strong pagan worldview where protagonist is defeated by his politically correct Romantic obsession and revisionist view of history trying to undercut European notions of civilization and paganism among primitive natives, which takes the form of a pagan tribe of cannibals, but protagonist’s wife remains loyal to him despite his obsession with his work involving a search for a fabled lost city, but she’s also depicted as a feminist, plus protagonist sees a fortune teller and her prediction seems to become at least partly true; three obscenities (including one “f” word) and three strong profanities; strong violence includes several spear attacks from pagan natives, one expedition member gets speared straight through the chest, an intense World War I battle sequence with numerous shooting victims and attendant bullet wounds, men in jungle contend with piranhas, giant insects and parasites, explorers find a dismembered body on a spit and shrunken heads during a tense walk through a cannibal tribe’s camp in the jungle, tensions among men lead one man to lunge at another with a knife and get grazed with a bullet in turn; no sex; real male nudity among natives; alcohol use; no smoking or drugs; and, men are taken prisoner by cannibals and never heard from again.
THE LOST CITY OF Z is the true story of British army officer and explorer Percival Fawcett, his repeated treks into the Amazon jungle over decades to prove the existence of an ancient Indian city, and the effects the journeys had on his wife and children. THE LOST CITY OF Z has a strong Romantic, pagan worldview where the explorer protagonist is undone by his Romantic obsession and paganism, which appears in the form of pagan cannibals.
The movie opens with Col. Percival Fawcett (Charlie Hunnam) racing on horseback against other men amid a visceral deer hunt, where he proves his mettle by being the man to take it down. Yet, at a dinner party afterwards, it becomes clear he’s a man who feels a need to prove himself, as other upper-crust attendees note that he came from a lower social class and his father had blown his own military career through addictions to liquor and gambling.
Fawcett takes a unique chance to redeem himself when the Royal Geographical Society calls upon him to engage in a two-year expedition to the uncharted jungle territory between Bolivia and Brazil, where the two nations fight over the rights to highly lucrative rubber trees. He’s teamed with his old army buddy Henry Costin (Robert Pattinson) and a small team of other men to ride a boat up the Amazon, with native guides provided to them by a mining company magnate. The tycoon believes resolving the international conflict will give him a lucrative way into the rubber trade as well.
Yet, even as the friends are excited by the journey, Fawcett has to leave behind his wife, Nina, and their young son, Jack, with the movie giving significant weight to the domestic troubles his journey creates. Fawcett winds up discovering pieces of pottery and other shards of evidence that cause him to believe there had once been a lavish city built there by the natives. This belief creates a personal obsession that lasts long past his initial quest to map the territory has been resolved.
Fawcett winds up returning three times over the course of three decades, enduring conflicts with both his own men as they fear the dangers of the jungle and native tribes. As the years pass, he struggles with being an ever-more-distant father and husband. This causes him dual dilemmas as he has to talk Nina out of her own desire to join him and Henry grows to become his final jungle partner, which is a teaming that eventually places them in grave danger.
THE LOST CITY OF Z isn’t an action-packed thrill ride in the vein of numerous other such historical adventures, parsing out its action moments between more elegant and stately ones. Writer/Director James Gray focuses on the human side of the story more, as Fawcett doesn’t engage in his quest in an effort to conquer but rather to prove that the allegedly savage natives had a higher culture than the Europeans give them credit.
The movie is particularly strong in setting its atmosphere, with lush cinematography and intriguing details such as an outdoor opera house the explorers stumble across deep in the jungle mid-performance. With Charlie Hunnam leading a cast that excels in conveying the deeper emotions behind the madness of obsession, the movie manages to be a rare adventure movie with a lot on its mind.
While Fawcett could be seen as neglectful of his familial duties in the pursuit of proving the city’s existence, his wife remains ever-loyal, providing a positive portrait of lifelong devotion. It’s not likely that THE LOST CITY OF Z would appeal to younger adults and teenagers, but rather to more history-minded older audiences. Also, the movie’s mixture of pagan mysticism, presented matter-of-factly in tribal sequences especially near the climax, merits extreme caution. In the end, the hero in THE LOST CITY OF Z is undone by his Romantic, politically correct obsession and by false pagan religion, which takes the form of a tribe of ruthless cannibals.