Find Your Jungle
Rather than the traditional review and rate system previously employed on the site, I’ve decided to change things up a bit. Instead of dissecting a film I enjoyed in depth, I figured I’d highlight a few things that elevated the movie in my mind so as to encourage you to seek it out as well. Suffice it to say I recommend these films wholeheartedly and wouldn’t give them special attention if I didn’t deem them worthy of cinema viewing (you should absolutely see these in theaters, especially this one). The first film to be given this treatment is James Gray’s The Lost City of Z, which tells the story of one man’s quest to uncover evidence of the remains of a mysteriously advanced civilization deep in the heart of the Amazon. I first saw Z at the New York Film Festival last October and it’s left an indelible mark on me. Here are three reasons why:
1. They don’t make them like this anymore
Director James Gray has yet to make a bad film in my opinion and a big reason for this consistency is his respect for the craft. Rather than opting for the conveniency of digital cameras and well-lit back lot studios, Gray fought with his producers in order to shoot with 35mm film, on location, in the heart of the Colombian jungle and parts of Northern Ireland. Unheard of in 2017 and unfortunately rare for studio films nowadays – a sense of authenticity. Shot brilliantly by his cinematographer Darius Khondji on 35mm stock, the picture has a gritty texture and warmth to the color tone to match the grime and punishing heat suffered by the principal characters. This style of directing is a callback to the ’70s era of filmmaking where directors went to any length to capture their art, regardless of budget or audience expectations. Long, dramatic films for adults. Somewhere Francis Ford Coppola is smiling.
2. The actors are game
Of course a movie cannot succeed on its technical merits alone. The talent in front of the camera has to be up to par in order to carry the story convincingly. I’ll be the first to admit: I was never a big fan of Charlie Hunnam. There was something off-putting about him in his cinematic work and I found his presence to be cold and his acting often stiff on screen. He exuded a “B-rate” vibe as harsh as that sounds. However The Lost City of Z has made me a convert. He was truly excellent in the lead role of Percy Fawcett, a man with enough ambition and desire to fill any room he enters. Hunnam is not the only star shining brightly too. Robert Pattinson (equally as off-putting to me before this) elevates his game and plays Hunnam’s right hand man “Henry Costin” with dignity and a scrupulous allegiance. Sienna Miller (who is too often wasted in the role of thankless wife in projects) again plays a thankless wife, “Nina Fawcett,” but this time she is given dimensionality and more to do than just cry in reaction shots to the sight of her husband leaving home. Finally Tom Holland plays Hunnam’s son “Jack” who grows up to be just as curious and ambitious as his father. Consider me a devotee to the Church of Charlie.
3. The story is timeless
I kept talk of the plot to a minimum because I don’t want to go too deep into the story but I will say that the themes present here are familiar, maybe even eternal. Percy Fawcett is a man motivated by his ambition and consumed by his obsession. His health, family, and personal relationships all suffer due to his stubborn refusal to give up on proving the existence of the ancient civilization that he is so sure inhabited this area of forgotten jungle. He quickly discovers that the “lost city” may have been ignored for a reason as the indigenous tribe that inhabits the land is not exactly welcoming of his expedition’s presence. His colleagues at the Royal Society mock him and his wife reluctantly supports him but he remains committed to seeing the City with his own eyes. They may be considered “savages” to the outside world but to Percy they represent something more important, man at his most resourceful.