In cinemas now – running time 141 minutes – Cert 15
James Gray returns as writer and director for this tropical adventure, based on the true story of Colonel Percival Fawcett, as he searches the jungles of Bolivia to find evidence of ancient civilisation. Running at a stately pace, the story slowly builds up and takes its time setting the tone, but once things settle, everything clicks in to place and keeps the momentum going throughout. Charlie Hunnam dominates the screen with his stern yet welcoming portrayal of Colonel Fawcett, supported by an excellent cast, each fitting perfectly in to their role.
Being set in the early 20th century means that there’s a lot of formality, pomp and pageantry, namely when its focus shifts to Fawcett’s time with the army. The elegance and etiquette stands out against the dreary British backdrop, in contrast to the brightness of the Bolivian jungle, where the characters seem more at home in the face of danger, than they would in a remote cottage on the south coast of England. It’s as much a sensory experience as it is a cinematic one, with its exhilarating score, wonderful editing (particularly towards the end), and the low-lit, dusky imagery, particularly in the jungle, with the low sun’s rays bursting through the trees. This all accumulates at the ambiguous end, which is as serene as it is unsettling.
James Gray has once again shown how much of talented film maker he is, perhaps even surpassing We Own the Night with this epic story of determination and ambition. The costume and set design is marvelous, from the grey British streets to the indigenous villages of Bolivia, with the latter almost bringing tears to the eyes as the film reaches its climax. There’s many underlying themes running through, which could be dissected in a number of ways, but regardless of how trying things get, there’s always a sense of optimism and awe.