Blu-Ray Pick of the Week: The Lost City of Z

"The Fate of the Furious" is also new to Blu-Ray this week. 

Human beings are curious creatures. I mean that not only in the sense that the human race is quite peculiar, but also in that humans have an inherent curiosity. We need answers and seek to know. For some, the ambition to know and have definite answers is the driving force of their entire lives. Colonel Percival Fawcett (Charlie Hunnam), the real life British Army officer and intrepid explorer at the heart of “The Lost City of Z,” is one of those people.

While knowledge eventually becomes Fawcett’s pursuit, that is not his original goal. The movie opens with then Major Fawcett making a name for himself on a hunting excursion. As he gets ready for the big party that evening to celebrate his triumph, he laments to his wife Nina (Sienna Miller) that he will be the only man of his rank without any medals on his uniform. This feeling of inadequacy prompts him to accept a dangerous mission form Sir George Goldie (Ian McDiarmid), head of the Royal Geographical Society. Fawcett is to go to the jungles of South America to map out a region that’s in dispute between Bolivia and Brazil. Should he succeed, awards and commendations are in his future.

On the journey, Fawcett meets his second in command, Henry Costin (Robert Pattinson). Costin is a drunk, but Fawcett cures him of that right away. There is no place for such behavior in the jungle. Pattinson is barely recognizable as Costin, a man with a large, scraggly beard and weary eyes. I give credit to Pattinson for setting the pretty playboy image aside and sinking his teeth into a grimier, meatier role than we’ve seen him in before. He plays the part very well.

Fawcett’s exploits lead to the discovery of some broken pottery, which he believes to be thousands of years old. Back in London, he is laughed at by the Royal Geographical Society, who claims that such notions are preposterous. There’s no way that the primitive “savages,” as they call them, in the Amazon jungle have a civilization that pre-dates Britain’s own. Not only is Fawcett sure of his discovery, he also has an idea of where this civilization once stood. It’s a place that he calls the Lost City of Z (pronounced “zed”).

As if the dangers of the jungle weren’t enough, here is where Fawcett has to fight one of the most frustrating battles of all: the battle against ignorance. First we have the Royal Geographical Society members, who insist through their arrogance and book-learning that they are right and Fawcett must be wrong. Second is Nina, who pushes an early twentieth century version of a feminist agenda, complaining about dresses and corsets. She insists that she go with him on his expedition back to the jungle to prove he’s right. Fawcett then very sensibly explains that while he agrees on equality in terms of the mind and of rights, she is physically not up to the task. Much like some modern day feminists when the plain and simple truth is calmly and rationally presented to them, she throws a hissy fit and storms out of the room.

The most egregious battle against ignorance, and arrogance—a dangerous combination—is waged against Royal Geographical Society member James Murray (Angus Macfadyen). Murray was Shackleton’s second in command on his famous expedition to the Antarctic, and sees a trip to the jungle as something he can easily handle. He also believes in Fawcett’s claim and wants to prove it with him. All Murray winds up proving is that the South Pole and the Amazon jungle are two very different places, and success in one does not mean success in the other. Murray’s pride and greed get to him on the journey, and he is nothing but a hindrance to their progress.

“The Lost City of Z” lags a bit in parts, particularly during the end sequence that drags on for way longer than needed, especially considering that this is a two hour and twenty minute movie. It’s also a bit unexpected, for someone not familiar with Fawcett’s story, to have him go in and out of the jungle multiple times. Each time he goes, the danger is there, and there are only so many times that fate can be tempted before it catches up with someone. But none of that matters when, like Fawcett, a person has something to prove. Rent it.

Also New This Week

The Fate of the Furious

Dom (Vin Diesel), Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson), Letty (Michelle Rodriguez), and the rest of the gang are back in another NOS-fueled action adventure. This one is titled “The Fate of the Furious.” In it, treacherous baddie Cipher (Charlize Theron) kidnaps some people who Dom cares about very much, thus forcing him to go against his team and assist her in her devious terrorist plot. Under the guidance of Mr. Nobody (Kurt Russell), with the assistance of human punching bag Little Nobody (Scott Eastwood), and joined by the awesomely badass Deckard (Jason Statham), the rest of the team set out to stop Dom and Cipher and put things right again.

The movies in the “Fast and Furious” franchise have come a long way, from street racing in L.A., to elaborate heists, and now to fighting terrorists on a worldwide scale. As always, the ante is upped, and the chase/shootout on Arctic ice that end caps the movie is bound to be long remembered as one of the most entertaining and original action sequences the series offered up. I look forward to seeing where they go from here. Until we get there, “The Fate of the Furious” will keep us plenty entertained. Buy it on Amazon: The Fate of the Furious [Blu-ray].

More New Releases: “Smurfs: The Lost Village,” fully animated feature in which a mysterious map leads to a big smurfin’ discovery, featuring the voice talents of Joe Manganiello, Mandy Patinkin, Demi Lovato, and Rainn Wilson; “The Black Room,” about a couple whose dream house turns into a nightmare, starring Natasha Henstridge, Lin Shaye, and Dominique Swain; and “Hot Tub Party Massacre,” the kind of movie that happens when the words “sorority sisters” and “escaped serial killer” are used in the same story description.

Andrew Hudak is a lifelong film lover. His column on Blu-Ray new releases appears every Tuesday. He lives in Connecticut.

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