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The Lost City of Z (2016)

Broadgreen Pictures
Blu-ray Disc Released: 7/11/2017

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Review by Mike Long, Posted on 7/7/2017

We live in an odd time. Due to technology, the world can seem like a really small place. Television and the internet bring us news from around the globe in the blink of an eye, and we feel that we know everything which is happening everywhere. And yet, there are still places on Earth which are uncharted and mysterious. But, how often do you think about explorers (not the awful 1985 movie)? There was a time when brave men and women traversed the darkest regions of the world, discovering new lands and peoples, in order to bring some kind of order to the chaos. Despite the fact that explorers seem like an ancient idea, we must remember these trailblazers, like those seen in The Lost City of Z.

The year is 1905 and Percy Fawcett (Charlie Hunnam) is a member of the British Army. While he is happy with his wife, Nina (Sienna Miller), he has grown bored with his status in the military and, for reasons which are never explained, his family's reputation keeps him from getting medals. Percy is called in to meet with the Royal Geographic Society and given the task of going to the Amazon jungle in order to accurately map borders so that a war will cease. Percy accepts this opportunity, although he will be away from Nina for years, and, while en route, meets his new colleague, Henry Costin (Robert Pattinson). Once in the jungle, Percy and Costin find an inhospitable terrain, filled with deadly creatures and menacing natives. But, they press on and Percy finds pottery which hints that a civilization once existed at the mouth of the river. Returning to England, Percy reports his findings, and is met with doubt. Thus, he makes it his life's work to return to South America in order to find the lost city, which he calls "Z".

Welcome to another not-so-exciting episode of "I'm Not Familiar", where we watch biopics based on pioneers who have not received the notoriety which they deserves. Very similar to those portrayed in Hidden Figures, Loving, and The Zookeeper's Wife, The Lost City of Z brings us the story of somehow whose work and passion changed the world, but they certainly aren't a household name. Of the character's mentioned here, Percy Fawcett may be the most dedicated, as he not only made his research in South America his life's work and gave up his home life with his family, he literally risked life and limb at every turn (he was attacked by piranha), as he returned to the jungle three times -- the first to help bring peace to the land, and the latter two to make an archeological discovery. As we see in the film, his quest to find "Z" was not an endeavor for personal recognition. Percy saw the ignorance and racism in British society which assumed that there was no way in which natives in South America could have created a civilization. So, along with being an explorer, Percy was seeking social justice as well.

While Percy is an interesting character, The Lost City of Z joins the ranks of the film's listed above as movies which simply don't do justice to their subject matter. A movie about an explorer who not only challenges the jungle, but society as well should be both exciting and intriguing, but The Lost City of Z is neither. Perhaps in an attempt to mirror the norms of the period, the movie is simply too sedate and restrained for its own good. Not to say that there aren't some scenes which are engrossing -- Fawcett's speech to an unforgiving crowd concerning his views on South America is the film's highlight -- but the overall effect is decidedly cold and unemotional. Given the film's tone, it's surprising to learn that Director James Gray is not British. Not only is he from New York, he's made his career making gritty movies about life on the street in New York, such as The Yards and We Own the Night. I'm not implying that artists can't take a stab at something new and different, but perhaps Gray wasn't the right choice for this project.

At first glance, The Lost City of Z has a lot going for it. The movie makes great use of its locations in Ireland and Colombia and we certainly get the sense that the actors are experiencing what it's like to be in the jungle. The cast is good, especially Pattinson, who is clearly trying to move away from his Twilight days. Hunnam is OK, but, as with the film, he's a little too restrained at times. So, with The Lost City of Z, we get yet another movie in which I learned something, was inspired to research the topic even further, but was never truly moved by the story presented on-screen.

The Lost City of Z could have used more piranha action on Blu-ray Disc courtesy of Broadgreen Pictures. The film has been letterboxed at 2.35:1 and the Disc contains an AVC 1080p HD transfer which runs at an average of 36 Mbps. The image is sharp and clear, showing no overt grain and no defects from the source materials. The greens of the jungle look excellent here, as do most of the other colors, but the image does get a bit dark in some of the nighttime scenes. The level of detail is good, as we can make out the textures on objects, and the depth works well, most notably in the exterior shots. The Disc carries a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track which runs at 48 kHz and an average of 4.5 Mbps. The track provides clear dialogue and sound effects. We get a nice sense of the jungle noises here, as the track fills the front and rear speakers with an assortment of sounds, some of which are nicely detailed. Likewise, the rushing river comes through loud and clear, also provided some much-needed bass action.

The Lost City of Z Blu-ray Disc contains a few extras. We begin with an AUDIO COMMENTARY from Director James Gray. "Adventure in the Jungle" (2 minutes) has Hunnam and the filmmakers discussing the film's story and giving us a taste of what it was like shooting in the jungle. In "From Novel to Screen" (3 minutes), author David Grann divulges how he researched his book, which served as the source novel for the film, and how Fawcett was viewed by his contemporaries. "Expedition Journal" is simply a still gallery, disguised as an elaborate journal.

Review Copyright 2017 by Mike Long