"The Lost City of Z" does not involve zombies.
But it does offer cannibals, shrunken heads and a jungle obsession so feverish, you might swear you stepped into a Werner Herzog movie.
"The Lost City of Z"★ ★ ★
Starring: Charlie Hunnam, Sienna Miller, Tom Holland, Robert Pattinson, Angus Macfadyen
Directed by: James Gray
Other: A Bleeker Street Media release. Rated PG-13 for language, nudity and violence. 140 minutes
Director/screenwriter James Gray's adventure, based on David Grann Rather's 2009 nonfiction book, salutes the human drive for knowledge, and the nobility of personal sacrifice for the greater good, while turning a blind eye to contemporary concepts of responsible fatherhood.
From the get-go, British soldier Percival Fawcett (a tight and coiled performance by Charlie Hunnam) wants to advance up the ranks however he can. But as one snooty commander points out, "He's been rather unfortunate in his choice of ancestors."
Fawcett determines he can gain rank, money and stature by leading an expedition of explorers into the uncharted realms of Bolivia to determine its exact border with neighboring Brazil.
In 1906, he leaves his really, really, really supportive wife Nina (Sienna Miller) for a two-year visit to the jungle with his comrade Henry Costin (Robert Pattinson, sporting a steroidally thick beard) plus guides who might as well be wearing red shirts in a "Star Trek" TV episode.
Fawcett becomes so obsessed with the jungle -- carnivorous natives, piranha fish, disease, famine and betrayal are just a few of the safety issues -- he keeps returning to it as his family grows up without him.
"Lost City of Z" (referring to an ancient civilization Fawcett wants to find) is beautifully rendered on celluloid film by Darius Khondji, shooting in the Colombian jungle.
Christopher Spelman's orchestral score spikes the narrative with classical flourishes as Gray whisks us into an Indiana Jones adventure so realistic, its speculations on what happened to Fawcett and his son (Tom Holland) feel dead-on.