Charlie Hunnam portrays British explorer Percival Fawcett, on the hunt for the ruins of an ancient city in the Amazon rumored to be somewhere on the border between Bolivia and Brazil. Written and directed by James Gray ("The Yards," "The Immigrant"), filming outside the boundaries of his New York comfort zone for the first time, the story—conveyed by Hunnam's performance especially—doesn't convey the same sense of obsessive crusade as David Grann's 2005 New Yorker article and 2009 non-fiction book of the same title.
The question of whether Hunnam, whose butt came to public attention in "Sons of Anarchy," can act hasn't been definitively answered by any of his latest projects. But it may be possible that the script just failed to get to the interior of Fawcett. Robert Pattinson as Fawcett's scruffy aide-de-camp Henry Costin and Angus Macfadyen as whingeing explorer James Murray provide a few moments' entertainment, but overall the movie's timeline is frustratingly protracted.
Despite showing only three of Fawcett's eight actual trips through the jungle, Gray's insistence on running the gamut of jungle cliches—hostile natives, black panthers, bugs and rapids all make their inevitable appearances—makes the film's running time a masochistic trial in patience.
The short shrift given to Mrs. Fawcett (Sienna Miller) only adds insult to injury. The proto-feminist is the one who discovered the written documentation of the discovery of the city, yet there are no scenes of her research or any hint of her life in England while her husband is away.
Far ahead of his time, Fawcett makes the argument for the complexity of the ancient civilization and the capabilities of its inhabitants ancestors—underscored by the hypocrisy of the supposedly open-minded members of the Royal Geographic Society shouting Fawcett down with a chant of "pots & pans." But Gray bogs the mission with tropes from the most xenophobic of early jungle movie's. Under these circumstances, the most dazzling of archeological finds would be hard-pressed to change even the most modern of minds. Zed's dead, baby.