Love and scandal are the best sweeteners of tea. —Henry Fielding

06 June 2017

The Lost City of Zed

The Lost City of Z was an astoundingly ambitious film. I am not sure it actually works, but I was really taken aback by it, and I respected it very much. I don't think I've seen a movie like this since, like, the 1950s.

Nobody really makes big epic melodramas like this movie, and I think that is what I found so shocking about it. It felt like an old school Mark Robson picture or something: a giant epic like The Inn of the Sixth Happiness. James Gray takes his movies very seriously, and there is no hint of irony in this kind of moviemaking. I didn't think this worked at all with his last movie The Immigrant – I thought the acting was just terrible – but The Lost City of Z is much more successful, and Sienna Miller, Robert Pattinson, and Tom Holland do great work. Charlie Hunnam is less successful; the main part is a role made for someone like Brad Pitt, really, and Hunnam doesn't have the dynamism of a Colin Farrell or, say, Russell Crowe. He does his best, but the part just never quite jells.

To be honest, though, The Lost City of Z had other problems as well. The end is unsatisfying and not well designed: if you're going to make an old-fashioned melodrama, you need to have an old-fashioned happy ending. And the movie drags in its center, as the players search for their lost city and are bogged down by an absurd character played by Angus Macfadyen with Alfred Molina levels of absurdity.

In short, I can't really recommend this movie. I was excited to see it, and I found the whole thing rather stunning, if I'm honest. But in the vein of something like Richard Linklater's Boyhood, it turns out that the ambition and the idea behind the thing are more interesting than the picture; all that work and the movie just isn't that great.