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In the early 1900s, Percy Fawcett tries to move up in the British military ranks with little success—all because of an unfortunate ancestor who had besmirched the family name. When he is offered the opportunity to regain some of the family glory, he takes it, even though it’s a dangerous proposition.

The Royal Geographic Society in London wants Percy to help the governments of Bolivia and Brazil map the border between those countries, charting a course that hasn’t yet been scouted out by mapmakers. Fawcett agrees, embarking on a dangerous trip that changes his perspective on the indigenous people of “Amazonia” and opens his eyes to the possibility of undiscovered ancient civilizations.

Based on a true story and a book of the same title, The Lost City of Z will either help you understand what drives explorers to continue pushing the boundaries or make you wonder why anyone ever leaves home. Charlie Hunnam is convincing as a man whose entire purpose in life changes dramatically. He nobly fights a culture at home that cannot believe the Indigenous people are anything other than savages. But he is also swallowed up by an ambition to do something no one else has done, and it’s sometimes hard to differentiate between mission and madness.

Sienna Miller plays his wife, Nina, as a strong, supportive partner who is frustrated that her open-minded husband will not entertain the idea of her coming with him on his travels. In a telling moment, this man, who has been fighting for the world to recognize the intelligence and humanity of the South Americans, tells his own wife she is genetically inferior, unable to do what he does.

The ending will divide viewers—it’s either going to be seen as a beautiful rumination on the rewards of a pioneering life, or a sort of hokey way out of a difficult plot point. I’ll leave you to decide for yourself.

But the overall experience of the movie is one of mystery, a pursuit of grandeur that can’t even put into words. We all have the God-given desire for something more embedded within our souls. This film shows how one man pursues that desire for reasons both altruistic and deeply selfish. The Lost City of Z has some fine performances, an interesting history, and plenty to think about. On disc now. (Bleecker Street)

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