“The Lost City of Z” tells the story of Percy Fawcett (Charlie Hunnam), who was an explorer at the early part of the 20th century.
Fawcett is a major in the British Army – the son of an army officer who through a bout with the bottle left a son with no honor and a family with a bad reputation.
Percy is tasked with going to South America to determine the boundary between Peru and Brazil. This is a chance for him to earn back honor and restore his family name.
While on his first trip, Fawcett discovers what looks like an ancient city that predated the civilizations of both Europe and Asia.
He is convinced that the city, which he calls Z or Zed, is advanced for its time. But because the city is a nonwhite city, the attitudes of racism make it hard for him to raise funds to return to seek out the city.
The scene where Fawcett speaks to the Royal Geographic Society, back in London, shows those attitudes of white superiority on full display. As he attempts to tell of his findings and his conclusion from those findings, he is hooted and hollered at by those gathered there.
Fawcett invokes the teachings of the church, which was a cornerstone of what is racist thought, to declare that his findings stand against the dogma the church taught for centuries. This shows how much Fawcett was before his time.
The subplot of the movie shows how advanced the family dynamic is in his family. Nina Fawcett (Sienna Miller) is Percy’s wife; she declares her marriage to him as one that is equal in all ways.
This, for that time, was a different paradigm for marriage. Wives of that time were seen as always standing behind the husband, who did all the deciding and doing in the relationship.
Nina makes a passionate case for going with her husband when he returns to the jungles of the Amazon on his second trip.
She makes it clear that she did much of the research for him to make his speech and appeal to the geographic society. Because of her contributions, she feels the right to return with him.
We also see the strain that Fawcett’s years of traveling had on the family. His oldest son, Jack (Tom Holland), stands up to his father upon his return, taking his father to task for leaving the family for so many years to go out into the jungles.
Yet Fawcett is undaunted in his desire to show the world that there was a civilization of people of color that rivaled or equaled anything that whites did at that time.
This movie offers a good lesson for the church.
The church seemed always desirous to create theology that backs the claims of the majority race. Those claims are undergirded by the church and given legitimacy through theology and proclamation.
When science finds problems with church dogma, the church is put in a position to look out of touch with reality.
We that do the work of ministry and education need to learn to tread lightly in areas that are not exclusively related to faith and spirituality.
I liked this movie. It is well-done and well-acted. It is a throwback, in some ways, to the movies Hollywood once made of the adventurer looking for truth in the far-flung places upon the earth.
If you like adventure movies without all the special effects and explosions, this movie is for you.
Michael Parnell is pastor of Temple Baptist Church in Raleigh, North Carolina. He is married and has two boys. His love is for movies, and he can be found in a theater most Fridays.
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for violence, disturbing images, brief strong language and some nudity.
Writer and director: James Gray
Cast: Charlie Hunnam (Percy Fawcett), Sienna Miller (Nina Fawcett), Robert Pattinson (Henry Costin), Tom Holland (Jack Fawcett)
The movie’s website is here.