ASKED: “Why does anybody climb a mountain?”, George Mallory answered: “Because it’s there!” Mallory’s corpse spent 75 years on Mt Everest waiting for somebody to discover it. The only reference to Mallory I saw in […]
A DAY of reviewing began with a saga covering 20 years in the career of Major, later Colonel, Percy Fawcett and his family.
Never heard of him? I first encountered his adventures and mysterious fate in a compendium volume of adventure stories that briefly told what was known of him and his three exploratory ventures into the Amazon rainforest.
Writer/director James Gray’s film based on David Grann’s book gives what strikes me as a balanced account of his two expeditions before World War I, his experiences in France during that war and his final expedition in 1925, accompanied by his eldest son Jack.
It’s more than a “Boy’s Own” exciting story. His sponsorship by the Royal Geographic Society was a hotbed of political turmoil fomented by an overweight member who accompanied the second expedition, was sent home early, defeated by his inability to cope with the trip’s hardships and later accused Fawcett of cowardice and bad leadership.
A constant thread of the story is Nina Fawcett, who bore three children and, until her death in 1954, remained convinced that underlying Percy’s enthusiasm was a belief that somewhere in the Amazonian jungles was the ruin of an ancient civilisation. Think of Shackleton, Scott and Livingstone, drawn to unknown places simply because they were unknown.
The film looks impressive, from England’s green and pleasant land to chaotic battlefields in France and Amazonian rainforests where indigenous inhabitants wearing very little were difficult to befriend.
As Percy, Charlie Hunnam confronts steamy jungles and rafting along unmapped rivers with élan. Sienna Miller plays Nina with intensity and conviction. Tom Holland plays Jack as an adult. And Angus Macfadyen is a credible baddie as Murray whose enthusiasm transcended his ability to endure.
It’s an exciting story told with admirably restrained credibility.