The Lost City | movie review
If only it had stayed lost...
Movie summary: A reclusive romance novelist on a book tour with her cover model gets swept up in a kidnapping attempt that lands them both in a cutthroat jungle adventure. (IMDb)
When I first saw the trailers for The Lost City, I was at least hoping for a Romancing the Stone deal, although it appeared like Channing Tatum was playing a version of Jenko from the Jump Street movies which I thought would make for some great comedy. Unfortunately, this movie never comes close to any of them because it never settles on an identity for itself.
The main problem is that the characters just don't work with each other and, as a result, makes everything feel very superficial and very hollow. Honestly, it feels like the script must've gone through multiple drafts with varying tones and they simply kept versions of characters that may have worked in one draft without considering if they would work with those taken from other versions.
You only have to compare the leads, Sandra Bullock as Loretta and Tatum as Alan, to see the problem - her character is written relatively straight, with the gravity of grieving for her deceased partner in her backstory; while Alan is just a buffoon who The Lost City more than once tries to convince us has more depth to him than first appears, but never comes close to succeeding.
To go back to Jump Street, Jenko works as an idiot because those movies never try to claim he has some hidden depth - don't get me wrong, he's a nice guy but that doesn't stop him being a dummy; he's larger than life and basically a live action cartoon character from start to finish. That consistent portrayal allows the audience to buy in to the character and accept him for who he is - that consistency just isn't there for Alan.
It means that romance angle of The Lost City never works either because it doesn't make sense why Loretta would fall for Alan on anything other than a surface level. You do have to wonder what kind of message the movie is sending - if you're attractive and persistent in being nice to the person you like, eventually they'll give in and fall for you even if you're an idiot who would barely survive in the real world?
But the inconsistency of tone between characters applies to the supporting cast too, with Da'Vine Joy Randolph as Loretta's agent, Beth, landing somewhere between Loretta and Alan in terms of behaviour; Brad Pitt's Jack Trainer feeling like a serious action movie character with some odd quirks that don't fit him; Oscar Nuñez's Oscar as basically a live-action comedy relief cartoon character; and even Héctor Aníbal's Rafi, a principled henchman (eventually, at least) to the big bad of the piece, who could be in a comedy-free version of this movie and fit just fine.
Then there's said big bad, Abigail Fairfax, played by Daniel Radcliffe, who is ultimately emblematic of The Lost City's bizarre tonal inconsistencies. I really liked his character for most of the movie, aided by Radcliffe's excellent performance that is attempting to remain calm, yet threateningly charming for the most part, but even Fairfax devolves into idiocy and stereotypical villain behaviour by the time the finale comes around.
All of these character problems aren't really helped by a story that doesn't really go anywhere or feel like it matters, with moments that are clearly intended as being meaningful or emotional falling flat - not just because the characters don't work, but because it's patently obvious when The Lost City wants you to feel a certain way and it just makes those scenes feel even more artificial than the rest of the film.
It's all a little frustrating as you could massively improve things simply by writing Alan and Abigail with greater consistency - it would make the former's developing relationship with Loretta feel at least somewhat more believable and the latter would add some sense of threat to a movie sorely lacking in that department. That consistency of character might not turn things around entirely, but it would be a bloody good start.
The Lost City does feel like a missed opportunity to make something fresh because it never feels like it settles on what it wants to be and so I just didn't connect with any part of it, a feeling only amplified by the occasional scene of brief character interaction that really works. It might be new out, but it really feels like any sequel would need to be a semi-reboot: settle on a tone for the story while keeping the characters consistent to themselves and the world they in, and there could be something good here... maybe.
The Lost City just doesn't work, with most of the characters feeling like they each come from different movies and were just recycled to be lumped together here. They're not helped by a main plot which never feels interesting or exciting, and an antagonist who starts out promising but ultimately disappoints too, somehow making for an anticlimactic ending to an already disappointing experience.