Directed by: James Gray
Produced by: Dede Gardner, Jeremy Kleiner, Anthony Katagas, James Gray & Dale Armin Johnson
Other cast: Charlie Hunnam, Robert Pattinson, Sienna Miller
Release date: March 24, 2017 (UK)
Premiere date: October 15, 2016 (USA)
Genre: Biography, Drama, History
Running time: 141 minutes
The Lost City of Z tells the incredible true story of British explorer Percy Fawcett, who journeys into the Amazon at the dawn of the 20th century and discovers evidence of a previously unknown, advanced civilization that may have once inhabited the region. Despite being ridiculed by the scientific establishment who regard indigenous populations as "savages," the determined Fawcett - supported by his devoted wife, son and aide de camp returns time and again to his beloved jungle in an attempt to prove his case, culminating in his mysterious disappearance in 1925.
In 1905 Percy Fawcett is a young British officer participating in a stag hunt on an Irish baronial estate for the benefit of the visiting Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria. A skilled horseman and marksman, he brings down the stag swiftly but is snubbed at the after-hunt party. A year later, Fawcett is sent to London to meet with officials of the Royal Geographical Society (RGS). The governments of Bolivia and Brazil are nearly at war over the location of their mutual boundary and its direct effect on the region’s extremely lucrative rubber trade, and have asked the British government to survey it. Fawcett agrees to lead the survey party to restore his family’s good name. Aboard a ship to Brazil, Fawcett meets Corporal Henry Costin, who has knowledge of the Amazon rainforest. At a large rubber plantation in the jungle owned by the Portuguese nobleman Baron de Gondoris, the two meet Corporal Arthur Manley,[a] who tells them that the British government advises against further exploration. Fawcett, with several guides and the Amazonian scout Tadjui, completes the mission. Tadjui tells Fawcett stories about a jungle city covered in gold and full of people. Fawcett dismisses such stories as insane ravings, but discovers highly advanced broken pottery and some small stone statues in the jungle that convince him of the veracity of Tadjui’s story.
Fawcett is praised upon his return, where his wife, Nina, has given birth to their second son. In the Trinity College Library in Dublin, Nina discovers a conquistador text which tells of a city deep in the Amazonian jungle. Fawcett meets the renowned biologist James Murray, who agrees to back Fawcett’s expedition to the Amazon to find what Fawcett calls “the Lost City of Z”. Fawcett attempts to convince the members of the RGS to back the expedition, but is publicly ridiculed. Nevertheless, the RGS backs the expedition to further exploration of the Amazon basin. Murray, unfamiliar with the rigors of the deep jungle, slows the party down significantly. Fawcett’s party is attacked while traveling along the river. However, Fawcett makes peace with the natives. Murray suffers a leg injury which becomes severely infected, and begins to go mad. Fawcett sends him off with a native guide and the group’s last pack animal to find aid. Fawcett’s team are forced to abandon the expedition after discovering that Murray poured paraffin on their remaining supplies.
Murray survives and, in front of the RGS trustees, accuses Fawcett of abandoning him in the jungle and demands an apology from him. Fawcett elects to resign from the society rather than apologise. The First World War breaks out in Europe, and Fawcett goes to France to fight. Manley dies in the trenches at the Battle of the Somme, and Fawcett is temporarily blinded in a chlorine gas attack. Fawcett’s eldest son, Jack, who had long accused Fawcett of abandoning the family, reconciles with his father as he recovers.
In 1923, Fawcett is living in obscurity in England. North American interest in exploring the Amazon has reached fever pitch, primarily due to Fawcett’s stories of the lost city. John D. Rockefeller, Jr., and a consortium of U.S. newspapers finance a new expedition by Fawcett. The RGS co-funds the expedition at the last moment to maintain British pride. Fawcett shows Sir John Scott Keltie a compass, informing Keltie that should he (Fawcett) find the lost city, the compass will be sent back to England. Fawcett and his son intend to go alone this time, traveling as light as they can for up to three years in order to find ‘Z’. Fawcett invites Costin, but he declines. Fawcett and Jack are attacked by natives and escape, only to be ambushed again. This second tribe gives the Fawcetts a fair hearing, but are puzzled by them, noticing that their spirits aren’t wholly of their own world but also not wholly of the Amazon. They declare that the spirits of the Fawcetts “must belong” somewhere and they will help them find their rightful place. Fawcett and Jack are drugged during a ceremony and carried away.
Some years later, Nina Fawcett meets with Keltie at the RGS, claiming she has heard that Fawcett and Jack are still alive and are living among tribes-people. The RGS, having sent more than a hundred people to search for Fawcett in the intervening years, declines to send another expedition. Keltie advises Nina to come to terms with her husband’s death, but she refuses. Nina instead opens her purse, to give Keltie the compass Fawcett had promised to send were he to have found the lost city. As Nina leaves, her reflection in a mirror shows her walking out into what looks like the Amazonian jungle.