The Lost City (Review): Great Performances Bolster A Fun Film

I never thought I’d see Sandra Bullock and Channing Tatum as a comedy duo, but here we are. And they pull it off too! Read on for my review of The Lost City.

I go into most romantic comedies with trepidation, because I’ve been trained to do so. My headspace for The Lost City was no exception. But sometimes it’s better to have low expectations and an open mind, ’cause you can more easily enjoy yourself. I ultimately had a good time with this one, I’m pleased to report!

Lorretta Sage (Sandra Bullock) is an ex-archaeologist and a successful romance novelist. Her most famous series of books features a duo who goes on sensual Indiana-Jones-like adventures. Nobody cared, up till this time, that Sage incorporated actual archaeological research into her books. But evil rich guy, Abigail Fairfax (Daniel Radcliffe), believes that Loretta can lead him to the titled Lost City, where a great treasure lays buried. He kidnaps Loretta when she refuses to help. And the cover model for Loretta’s books (Channing Tatum) attempts to rescue her.

Yes that premise is as goofy as it sounds. Yet it somehow works surprisingly well! The story is goofy in a good way– in an entertaining way. And I’ll even call it charming.

The Lost City isn’t trying to be a cinematic masterpiece. It just wants to be an amusing romance/comedy/action flick. And I say it succeeds in droves! Let’s break it down further now, shall we?

Starting with the romance: it was pretty well handled (for the most part). The basic emotional arc is one we’ve seen many times before. But these characters in these particular circumstances allow the old romance-story cliches to feel fresh enough for me.

For one thing: I respect that there’s a 16 year age gap between Sandra Bullock and Channing Tatum. All too often in movies, we see men seduce women many years their junior. The Lost City flips this stereotype on its head without calling attention to the fact. I’m willing to bet, if this movie does well, we’ll see a new trend in Hollywood where older women will be romantically paired with younger men.

Bullock and Tatum also have great chemistry on screen. They play off each other nicely both in emotional and comedic moments. And their characters have complimentary strengths. Alan is more emotionally intelligent and level-headed, while Loretta is smarter and wiser.

That said: they aren’t the best couple on paper. Alan is far more useful for Loretta’s character growth than she is for his. I can’t say he really gained much by being in her company, other than some recognition (which she never gave him before).

As for the comedy: The Lost City is a funny movie! Its humor didn’t entirely land but most of its jokes gave me a smirk at bare minimum. There were many clever comebacks, witticisms, and back-and-forths. Everyone’s joke delivery was on point. This cast is comically talented (which a lot of comedy movies can’t seem to muster, somehow).

I also loved the physical humour– particularly that of Sandra Bullock. Her body language was hilarious! She would sometimes go exaggeratedly rigid or liquid. Bullock even made simple actions like blowing hair out of her eyes more funny than it ought to have been. And she carries a constant exasperation which makes her facial expressions communicate a great deal.

Finally, how was the action? Decent! There isn’t a lot of it, mind you, but a little sometimes goes a long way. The stunts were impressive, the effects were convincing, and the scenes maintained some actual stakes!

Once again, there’s nothing ground-breaking here. But it’s competently handled all-around. And that’s oftentimes better than the garbage most films give us nowadays…

The intrepid adventurers set forth on their quest for treasure!
Paramount Pictures

How about the characters? What are their deals?

Loretta Sage is largely defined by the death of her ex-husband. They were archaeologists together and, when he died, she lost her desire to live life fully. Loretta begins the movie a recluse, uncomfortable with social outings or meeting her fans (most of whom she doesn’t respect, ’cause she thinks her own books are trashy). She has a bad attitude, and comes across as unintentionally cold.

But her kidnapping experience, plus her adventures on the island nation to which she was brought, slowly reawaken her passion for discovery. Sure, she wants to survive being hunted by a homicidal rich boy and go home. Yet she also wants to find the titled Lost City, just to satisfy her own curiosity. This, coupled with Alan’s influence, helps Loretta come of her shell.

I’d argue The Lost City‘s main story is about re-discovering oneself in the wake of a long and unhappy period of life. Loretta is content to live in the past (fitting seeing as she studies ancient history). But she’s forced to finally partake in the here and now. I’m sure it’s relatable to many people on an emotional level.

I didn’t expect Alan to be as sympathetic a character as he was. Maybe it’s because The Lost City trailers made him look like an idiot… And the first act does, admittedly, play up his stupidity. He’s a romance-novel cover model who pretends like he’s a dashing adventurer in real life. The fact that he tries and save Loretta from a kidnapping proves he lacks some common sense.

Loretta sees Alan as a foolish and arguably delusional man. Though he’s got goods reasons for some of his behaviours. And he may not be a brilliant mind, but he’s not to be underestimated.

One of my favourite moments in The Lost City is when Alan reveals his technique to calm panicked people. I could easily see myself using this idea in real life! No, I don’t plan to tell you what it is. I know I’m a jerk, but I’d prefer you just watch the movie (even though it almost assuredly won’t live up to the hype I’ve generated)…

Daniel Radcliffe gets to chew some scenery as The Lost City‘s main villain! His performance is just big enough here. He’s not so over-the-top as to be off-putting, but doesn’t play it so straight as to be boring. He fits in nicely.

His character– Abigail Fairfax– is constantly in the shadow of greatness. Farfax’s younger brother got to take over their family business, and the riches of a formerly grand kingdom evade his grasp. This is a man who would rather buy his way to success than build a dynasty of his own. He’s a spoiled brat who always gets his way, and he lacks the conscience to hold back his ambitions.

Radcliffe doesn’t get a lot in the way of character development, but that’s OK. He’s not the type of villain who has complex motivations. I’m satisfied with a good straight-up badguy every once in a while– especially when the actor is clearly relishing their work.

One element of this film which I appreciate: The Lost City gave Fairfax’s henchmen a touch of personality too– notably Rafi (Héctor Aníbal). I was interested enough in these guys that I wanted to see some more of them. But The Lost City already gave us more from such side characters than do most films of its type.

Rounding out the main cast is Da’Vine Joy Randolph as Loretta’s publicist: Beth Hatten. Her side-quest to save Loretta was my least favourite part of the film. It mostly felt like filler to break up the actual story on the island. And Beth could easily have been an annoying character the way she was written. Yet Randolph manages to give the character enough like-ability that I rooted for her to succeed in her increasingly bizarre misadventures.

There’s a couple other fun characters who I won’t talk about here, ’cause (once again) I’d rather you experience them in the movie. Just hearing who else is in the cast spoils some fun surprises. But they contributed to some of the best sequences The Lost City had to offer.

I was blown away by Dominican Republic locations this film featured! It’s a far more immersive and cinematic experience watching actors in actual jungles instead of playing around on studio sets. I’ll bet these location-shoots were more hard and uncomfortable for everyone involved. But the final product is more worth your while than the next VFX-heavy extravaganza. I’m sick of movies relying on green screen work in lieu of practical surroundings…

One more note before I wrap up: The Lost City contains a mid-credits scene. If you liked the film whatsoever, the scene in question is 100% worth a watch.

The Lost City is a solid, light entertainment– good for a few laughs and some escapism. Sandra Bullock is hilarious, Channing Tatum is charming, and the filmmaking is well-handled. This film isn’t deep, or something bound to stick with me, but I enjoyed myself.

The Lost City is definitely Worth a Watch if you’ve got some spare time.

Are you happy, confused, or annoyed by the recent wave of Hollywood adventure movies in this vein? What did you think of The Lost City? Please share your thoughts in the comments (no spoilers please). If you have any ideas for future articles, or any questions, let me know. Also be sure to Like this article on Facebook and share if you enjoyed!

Till next time,

Joe Morin

By Joseph Morin

Joe's passion for film and entertainment began at 7 years old when his younger brother demanded to watch Duel of the Fates every day for weeks (on DVD). Joe admired the sequence so much, he decided to dedicate his life to film-making and storytelling. He has a degree in Cinema and Media Studies from York University. Joe loves DC superheroes (especially Superman), the first six Star Wars movies, and arguing about media with anyone who will listen.

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