Film explores obsessive hunt for unknown

There is romanticism in the pursuit of exploration. The search for the unknown can motivate a person to face dangers and ridicule. And that motivation can turn into obsession.

“The Lost City of Z” tells the amazing true story of early 20th-century British explorer Percy Fawcett, and it has the makings of a great cinematic tale. And the delivery of the movie depends heavily on how much one can enjoy the journey.

Fawcett (Charlie Hunnam) leaves his wife (Sienna Miller) and young child for an expedition to the Amazon. While there, he encounters tales of a great and advanced civilization thus far unknown to the Western world.

Upon his return to Britain, he shares his theory of this hidden civilization, facing the scorn of the scientific establishment that views the indigenous as savages. This spawns a lifelong journey to find evidence, even in the face of separation from his family.

Writer-director James Gray (“The Immigrant”) looks upon Fawcett's tale with similar obsession. He strings together the episodes of Fawcett's life in a near two-and-a-half hour epic that depicts a deeply human Fawcett as a man both curious and respectful of the people he is in search of.

Hunnam anchors the film with a rich performance full of wide-eyed curiosity about the world and a determined focus, even as his explorations impact his life.

“Lost City of Z” features lush and rich cinematography that practically makes the film worth seeing on its own, but the narrative ebbs and flows are too muted for the runtime, and an overreliance on exposition in the dialogue keeps things a little stilted, making a merely good movie that aspires to greatness.