The Lost City of Z: Oscar Bait Released Too Late

The Lost City of Z is a 2016 biographical drama film written and directed by James Gray. It stars Charlie Hunnam, Robert Pattinson, Sienna Miller, Tom Holland, Angus Macfadyen, Ian McDiarmidand Franco Nero. The film gives the audience an account of the life of famed explorer Percy Fawcett and his attempts at finding The Lost City of Z deep in the Amazonian jungles.


The Lost City of Z is one of those films every critic raves about but falls off the map just as quickly. It could be one of those films that release every Oscar season. It has all the hallmarks an Oscar bait movie could have: the writing is going to tight, the cinematography (by Darius Khnodji, love that guy) is going to be awesome, the direction is top notch, the performances are all good, it’s a biopic etc. you know how it is. It’s just that all that technical mastery cannot amount up to a truly memorable film when all is said and done. It’s not a bad film but I would be lying if I said it was a great one.

The story of the film is intriguing. I have read many a time that we as a species have lost a lot of our technical advances or have had to re-learn many things because our ancestors failed to keep written records/lost records due to wars, natural disasters etc. It is an idea that has fascinated me for the longest time. The film had me hooked before the plot actually kicked in. The film began and between being distracted by how starkly different good old Robert Pattinson looks and really getting into the first act of the film, I found myself losing interest in what was happening onscreen quite rapidly. Not a good sign.


I would like to explain my mindset while watching this film by comparing it to the TV show House. House has a very specific formula to it (a reason for me losing interest with it), a fact long time viewers could vouch for. The 4 act TV script has very similar tropes it follows with almost every episode. Sick guy comes in, everyone diagnoses it crappily when House diagnoses it correctly, the sick guy gets worse and finally, he’s saved by House’s genius. This film suffers from a similar drawback.

Yes, this is a story of one man’s dream and how he intended to achieve it by any means necessary but the fatal flaw is that each of his attempts seems eerily similar to the first one. The law of diminishing returns states that these scenarios will soon end up being tedious and leave the audience tepid. The film, to its credit, tries it’s best to make these scenarios exciting but for me, there is a whole lot of been there done that within the film itself, let alone other movies.


I can see where the critical praise for this film comes from. It is all about the technicality and craft involved with the production. I know people who like to shower praises on a film because of those internet-friendly buzz words like, but not limited to, deliberate pacing, beautifully shot, takes time with its storytelling, doesn’t have a million cuts, classic filmmaking sensibilities and so on. But, all those great parts do not make for a compelling whole. I could sit here and nod with the crowd but there comes a time in every man’s life where he needs to take a stand, this is mine.

Overly dramatic for a random internet review indeed but that out of left field statement has more dramatic weight than the film itself does on a whole. Quite the forgettable film even though it brims with a whole lot of quality for the simple reason that it fails to be arresting.



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