The Lost City of Z —James Gray’s handsome adaptation of David Gann’s book lops off the subtitle — A Tale of Deadly Obsession in the Amazon — in favor of something a little more righteous (but alas, less compelling) than mere obsession: a crusade against European notions of superiority. While surveying in Bolivia on behalf of the Royal Geographic Society, aging, frustrated army officer Percy Fawcett (Charlie Hunnam, square-jawed and resolute) discovers evidence of civilization in the jungle. Broken pottery, carved tree trunks, that sort of thing. He also hears native talk about a city no white man has seen. Clearly, it’s time to ditch the wife and kids for years at a stretch so that history can have a new chapter, one that allows for indigenous agriculture. Or so that people can stop being so steeped in the bigotry of the Church. Or so the Americans don’t get there first with their guns. Or, or, or. It’s a pity, because the obsession is still there in the background, unexplored and mysterious. (It’s not like Fawcett stops his quest following the 1911 discovery of Machu Picchu, even though it proves his ostensible point.) For a moment here and there, it looks like Mom and the kids will force Fawcett to confront himself instead of ranting about the world, but eventually, everyone comes ‘round to his lofty ideas about destiny and illumination. (Maybe he was right about the excellence of native wisdom.) There is an unexploitative, unsensational grounding to the whole affair that lends it dignity, but that doesn’t quite justify the 140-minute runtime.
Length: 2 hours, 20 minutes