The Lost City (2022) Review
A FLAWED AND CLUNKY, YET
AMUSING ROMANTIC ACTION-ADVENTURE
While the blending of different genres is now commonplace (and has been for quite some time), the merging of romance and action has become a popular one to fall back on for cinematic storytelling. There’s nothing like the marriage between the action-adventures heroics and dangers to drive up the sexual tension of romance….be it more intimate or for comedic gags. This special type of mixing film genres carries some precision weight to it, with the action are filled with occasional witty banter in some dramatic and exciting situations that accompany a particular main plot point and main narrative thread. Of course, the love interest in these endeavors is often a way to reflectively capture (almost like a foil) in the adventure and there are many mysteries to uncover…. whether it is amongst themselves or in the main tale being told. Such prime examples of this type of movies can be found in many, including 1959’s North by Northwest, 1967’s Bonnie & Clyde, 1984’s Romancing the Stone, 1998’s Six Days Seven Nights, 1999’s The Thomas Crown Affair, 2005’s Mr. and Mrs. Smith, 2011’s The Adjustment Bureau, and several others. Now, Paramount Pictures and directors Adam and Aaron Nee present the latest film that places heavily emphasize on the romance / action-adventure dynamic with the release of The Lost City. Does this movie find the spark of romance amongst its adventure, or does it smolder and get lost within its own narrative?
Loretta Sage (Sandra Bullock) is a romance novel author, who is struggling with new inspiration as she tries to put the finishing touches on her latest novel titled “The Lost City of D”. Still struggling with recent passing of her husband, Loretta is a widowed growing tired of the literary humdrum business, but her manager, Beth Hatten (Da’Vine Joy Randolph), insist she complete her publicity book tour, joining longtime cover model, Alan Caprison (Channing Tatum), as they sell the book to eager readers more interested in the man’s toned physique than her intelligence. During one appearance on the tour, Loretta is kidnapped by one Abigail Fairfax (Daniel Radcliffe), a billionaire on the hunt for the legendary relic called “The Crown of Fire”, believing that the writer knows something about the area where the lost fabled treasure resides. Dragged to a remote tropical island, Loretta is tasked with decrypting symbols for the impatient tycoon, yet struggles to figure out why she’s even there in the first place. Back home, Beth launches a full on rescue mission to find her novelist, while Alan, along with expert tracker, Jack Trainer (Brad Pitt), travel to the island, facing off against Fairfax’s heavily armed personal hired army to save Loretta. Lost in the jungle, Alan and Loretta search for safety and a way off the island, learning to trust each other as they get close to solving the mystery of where The Crown of Fire resides, while rekindling a special connection with each other.
THE GOOD / THE BAD
Naturally, my special love and affinity towards movies (in general) have always been a passion of mine, especially when the genres start to crossover one another and blend; creating something a bit both different and interesting to view. Perhaps the best one of these would be the romantic comedy ones, which showcases the usage of lighthearted comical tones and passionate romance for something rather unique that unfolds. For this review post, I’m looking at the margining of romance with action-adventure genres. It’s definitely one of the more quirky ones to have those two go together, yet it sometimes works, including several film endeavors that have indeed become memorable. These movies (as a whole) are often viewed with a sense of exactment, sexy, and danger that are wrapped altogether for a fun romp of moviemaking storytelling. Some of my personal favorite ones would be Mr. and Mrs. Smith, The Thomas Crown Affair, and I would say Casino Royale (heck, almost all the James Bond movies can be considered a part of this category). There’s plenty of other ones out there that share a similar narrative styles and fashion, but those are the ones that I think are the best example of this blending of film genres. In the end, while the margining and experimentation of mixing different genre styles together for something fascinating to see, the combination efforts of romance / action-adventure will continue to play a part in modern filmmaking, which excites and explore the sensual passion of love in amongst heroics and danger.
This brings me back to talking about The Lost City, a 2022 action-adventure comedy. I do remember when I first heard about this movie (when it was announced) and I was kind of intrigued by it. A somewhat romantic comedy endeavor with a splash of action and adventure nuances and with actress Sandra Bullock and actor Channing Tatum in the lead roles…. sounds quite interesting. I also remember seeing the film’s movie trailer many times during the “coming attractions” previews when I went to my weekly outing to my local movie theater…. usually when I saw a PG-13 rated film. I was definitely interested in seeing The Lost City when it was set to be released (in theaters) on March 25th, 2022. Unfortunately, due to my heavy work schedule, I actually didn’t get a chance to see the movie during its theatrical run; electing to watch the feature when it came to digital download sometime in August of 2022. Even then, I kept on pushing my back watching the film entirely as I was starting to play “catch up” with other movies to watch and review. Well, finally, after some time, I have the chance to watch The Lost City and give my personal “two cents” on the feature. And what did I think of it? Well, it was just okay movie. Despite the solid star power from Bullock and Tatum and the breezy feature film that has its moments of levity and exotic locales, The Lost City is entertaining, yet flawed in its own undertaking and overall execution. It’s not a terrible or disastrous movie, for it still holds some values of likeability, but it’s far from being a great and memorable one in action-adventure genre or even romantic comedy categories, which can be disappointing because the potential is there.
The Lost City is directed by not one but two directors, with Adam and Aaron Nee (sometimes known as the Nee Brothers) helming this particular project and, who previous directed such films like The Last Romantic, Band of Robbers, and You Can Never Really Know Someone. Given their previous filmmaking endeavors, the Nee Brothers make most of this specific film, with The Lost City being their most ambitious and high-profile movie to date. In that regard, I do have to applaud the duo directors for creating a semi-entertaining movie with enough gumption (and motion) to keep the feature mostly afloat with its comedy nuances and action-adventure aesthetics. With that, The Lost City does find a nice rhythm in trying to balance of what it wants to be and what it wants tell, with Nee Brothers being able to drum up some confidant notions of storytelling that blends the action and comedy together. Of course, it’s not the most original nor does the blend together in the correct way in a few areas, yet it’s quite the ambitious project for the Nee Brothers to accomplish and I feel that they do make the film hit their intended marks rather than missing them.
Naturally, those two elements of action and comedy are The Lost City’s “bread and butter” and, much like the character of Loretta Sages’ novels, the Nee Brothers make the movie feel like a high sweeping romance adventure. There’s plenty of danger, excitement, and daring do-gooding throughout the movie, with the Nee Brothers staging those particular moments throughout many scenes in the feature, especially most after the first act when main of the characters are placed in the jungle and must survive to both get off the island and to find the fabled treasure there. These moments is where the movie shines, especially since the comedic daring of the main cast help elevate the film’s shortcoming and creates some fun moments in the movie. This, of course, brings up the comedy aspect, which is pretty good. As to be expected, it isn’t the most clever and sharpest comedic lines of levity that has graced movies before, but The Lost City does have a good number of jokes and gag moments (both dialogue-driven and physical ones) that help keep these scenes afloat for some time….and that’s a good thing. I did laugh more times than I thought, which is a good thing, that was mostly do the acting talents involved, who are mostly equipped to handle material given to them. Also, for the most part at least, the movie does have a good / decent pace for the feature that helps move things forward and keeps everything breezy, which in keeps with the tone and style that the directors have presented in the film. Additionally, the film’s message, while not the most “in your face” ones that take place on a grand scale, certainly do make for a good fundamental reasoning for the film’s story, especially those found in Loretta’s backstory. In the end, while not the most groundbreaking, the Nee Brothers makes The Lost City have very enjoyable ride that plays up the familiar and generates a “comfort food” watch for its viewers to experience.
For its presentation, The Lost City makes the most of its premise and provides plenty of escapism within its own background jungle setting. While there are a few modern sequences that are sprinkled throughout the movie, most of the feature’s setting depicts the dense location of a tropical jungle (both landscape and vistas) and exotic style creations. While utilized visual CGI constructions or realistic ones, with the movie being filmed in and around the various areas of the Dominican Republic, the visual look and feel of The Lost City are quite beautiful and definitely captures the tropical climate setting that characters Loretta, Alan, and Fairfax play around with. Thus, the film’s “behind the scenes” main players, including Jim Bissell (production design), Jeno Delli Colli and Karen Frick (set decorations), Maria Fernanda Munoz and Wilhem Perez (art direction), and Marlene Stewart (costume designs), should be commended for their efforts on the film in bringing the film’s visual background setting fun and pleasing to look at. In addition, the cinematography work by Jonathan Sela is effective good throughout the film, with a few natural elements that help depict such an exotic and tropical location for some cinematic flavoring. Lastly, the film’s score, which was composed by Pinar Toprak, is also good as well and definitely compliments the movie’s setting and location that has plenty to offer within its musical composition pieces. Like the picture itself, it’s nothing grand, but feels genuine and fluffy to hear.
Unfortunately, The Lost City does have a lot of cracks within its undertaking and execution, with a few glaring points of criticisms that hinder the feature along the way. As somewhat expected, (yet still a problem), the movie has quite a formulaic nature throughout, which causes a very generic and predictable feeling in and out of the movie. Of course, I was not expecting anything new or groundbreaking, but what was presented in the film was pretty basic and pretty much “by-the-book” handling from conception to execution. That’s not to say that The Lost City was enjoyable (as it was), but it felt kind of like a lesser / watered down iteration of Disney’s Jungle Cruise….to an extent. I get that the main premise of the movie is sort of riffing on that idea for an action-adventure narrative, yet what’s presented still feels a predictable and any type of curve ball that the film tries to throw at the story (or any type of twist) is clearly visible and not really much of the surprise of which the script was trying to go for. Speaking of the script, which was penned by Nee Brothers (who pull “double duty” on the movie) as well as Oren Uziel and Diana Fox, The Lost City’s script feels quite generic to the touch, with a formulaic notion that desperately need to be ironed out better. What’s presented kind of works and gets the job done by producing a narrative that has its moments in the various aspects, yet still feel a bit underwhelming in being an action-adventure, the romance department, and the comedy. The script is never challenged to rise above what has certainly come before, which makes the film quite predictable and never really colors outside the lines, which (in my opinion) is disappointing because I can see the potential of the story.
This also extends to the Nee Brothers in their overall direction with the movie, which, while probably being the most ambitious project to date, still comes at the cost of being a bit uncoordinated, especially in the middle act of the feature. There’s just a lack of directorial finesse that is felt in The Lost City of which could’ve been better handled or utilized if the feature was placed in more experience hands. It’s a bit frustrating that the movie is kept in a “comfort” area that never colors outside the lines of the established parameters.
Perhaps another big problem that I noticed with the movie is how much The Lost City is lacking in needing more time. What do I mean? Well, while the movie sort of moves on a decently good pacing and clocks in at around 112 minutes (one hour and fifty-two minutes), there’s definitely a feeling that the movie could’ve been longer. Of course, the status quo of a feature film being “under two hours long” is sometimes a good thing, especially when the film goes off on too much of a tangent with unnecessary subplots, but the movie definitely could’ve benefited from adding more to the picture’s length. This best example of this would be adding more adventures that Loretta and Alan encounter throughout the descent in the jungle. More scenarios to come across, various nature obstacles, dodging vicious animals, , more “run-ins” with Fairfax’s bad guys, and maybe some type of traps. This would also be brought up more of the balance of comedy and romance into the mix (for more sequences with those respective moments). Of course, this would’ve made The Lost City have a more bloated runtime, but I would’ve liked to see more “adventures” escapade occur in the movie because…what’s presented feels a little bit short and not much going on.
Another big point of criticism that I had with the movie is the climax portion of the third act. I was kind of expecting / hoping for something more dramatic / climatic feeling in this part of the feature, yet it sort of felt a bit empty-handed and limp. I would’ve taken the story in a bit more of a different direction at this point that would’ve been something along the lines of (as mentioned above) Jungle Cruise or even like any Indiana Jones movies or even from the Uncharted video games. Even the way how the movie handles the final “confrontation” with Fairfax, who is the main villain of the feature, is weak and contrived as if the writers didn’t know how to handle him, which is disappointing. Thus, the ending of The Lost City feels quite underwhelming and could’ve been so much better with more substance and a different coordination in the storyboarding process and overall execution; something that falls on both the script handling and director.
The cast in The Lost City is likeable and up to the task for making the most of their respective film characters in some larger-than-life moments that do make for amusing (and colorful) constructs along the way. Yet, despite that notion, most of the characters representation come off as somewhat “cookie cutter” and / or lacking nuances to make them that memorable than was originally planned during the storyboarding process of the film. Perhaps the most memorable pair of the feature is (of course) the feature’s “big ticketed” stars that headline The Lost City, with actress Sandra Bullock and actor Channing Tatum, who play main protagonist characters of Loretta Sage and Alan Caprison. Bullock, who is known of her roles in Speed, The Blind Side, and Gravity, and Tatum, who is known for his roles in 21 Jump Street, Magic Mike, and White House Down, have both grown accustomed to being main lead roles in a wide variety of film genre / projects. Thus, it comes at no surprise that both give some solid performances that, while not their most memorable performances in their career, still manages to be fun, enjoyable, and utterly energetic in their respective roles. Bullock’s Loretta is more of the “straight man” (or “straight woman) role, with a clear and more focused mindset as she encounters a wide variety of obstacles and challenges in the jungle, while Tatum’s Alan is effectively good as he tries to be the main protagonist in Loretta’s novel but bumbles his way through several scenarios and scenes that makes his character quite endearing to watch.
Much like what I said about the 2022 film Ticket to Paradise, The Lost City ultimately works (and maneuvers better than intended to be) due to the star power that both Bullock and Tatum having throughout the feature, with the duo talents carrying the weigh of the feature on their shoulders. In that regard, the pair do make for a great team-up, with Bullock and Tatum playing off one another for some witty and hilarious “back and forth” banter. Perhaps the big downside that the feature has going against these two is how there characters are written and how thinly sketched they are. Sure, what is presented in the movie kind of works, but I felt like there could been further explored more (in-depth) on their various character backstories, especially Loretta and her recent passing of her husband (as mentioned above). Thus, the acting talent of Bullock and Tatum definitely helps elevate those “cookie cutter” character personas enough to make Loretta and Alan both interesting and memorable in the movie and probably end up being the best part that The Lost City has to offer. Without them, the film would be more of a generic bust.
While Bullock and Tatum keeps the feature afloat for being the most memorable in the film, actor Daniel Radcliffe is only mildly memorable and entertaining as The Lost City’s main antagonist character Abigail Fairfax. Radcliffe, who is known for his roles in the Harry Potter film franchise as well as Swiss Army Man and Horns, does get show how menacing he can be, but that’s not saying much due to the fact that he isn’t that menacing to begin with. Sure, one can easily tell that Radcliffe is having fun playing such a role, with a little bit of the cartoon “moustache twirling” villainy performance in his portrayal of Fairfax. He gets a few good one-liner zingers to play around with, yet he really isn’t much of a sizable threat of which the movie’s narrative kind of called for (within the context of a romance adventure). To be honest, his iteration of Fairfax comes across as just another lame character construct that’s way too similar too Radcliffe’s Walter Mabry in Now You See Me 2, who wasn’t that memorable or interesting. Plus, it’s sad (but true) that Radcliffe can’t break away from always being the infamous “boy who lived” from the Potter movies. In the end, Radcliffe, try as he might, becomes the least interesting and weakest player in The Lost City.
Of the supporting players in the movie, actor Brad Pitt (Fight Club and Seven Years in Tibet) is the feature’s big “scene stealer” as the character of Jack Trainer, a seasoned and experienced tracker that Alan enlist to help find Loretta. Pitt, who is an experienced actor, definitely knows what type of character to play in his performance of Jack Trainer, with enough manly bravado, composure, and sly (yet dry) humor to make the character standout. Perhaps the biggest downside to the character is that Pitt’s Jack is only in the movie for a very limited amount of time, but for that time he in The Lost City, it definitely works and perhaps the best part that the movie has offer. Thus, for better or worse, Pitt’s involvement in the film is indeed a welcomed one, despite his short length in the movie’s duration. The other supporting character that does make for a memorable standout is Beth Hatten, Loretta’s publisher, who is played by actress Da’Vine Joy Randolph (People of Earth and Only Murders in the Building). While she doesn’t have much interaction with the main plot of Loretta and Alan, Beth gets her own little side story as she launches a full on investigation to finding her author, which becomes quite hilarious. Plus, Randolph has some pretty good lines, which is most due to her comic timing. In the end, while not fully integrated into the main narrative thread, Randolph’s Beth comes off as humorous and amusing side character that gets a lot of laughs along the way.
The rest of the cast, including actor Hector Anibal (Sugar Fields and De Lo Mio) as one of Fairfax’s henchmen who is native to the island named Rafi, stuntman / actor Thomas Forbes-Johnson (Bad Boys for Life and Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings) as Fairfax’s main henchmen named Julian, actor Oscar Nunez (The Proposal and The Office) as the eccentric Cargo pilot named Oscar, actress Patti Harrison (The Great North and Together Together) as Loretta’s social media manger Allison, actress Joan Pringle (JAG and One on One) as Beth’s grandmother Nana, and actor Bowen Yang (Bros and Isn’t It Romantic) as the book moderator for one of Loretta’s conference tour named Ray, make up the minor supporting characters in the film. While some have a few more scenes than others, these particular players give what they can in their limited screen time and prove to be effective in their respective small roles.
Struggling novelist Loretta Sage and her cover model Alan Caprison embark upon their own personal romance adventure in a remote jungle as they are pursued by a tycoon villain, who is on the hunt for a legendary item from a lost civilization, in the movie The Lost City. Directors Adam and Aaron Nee’s latest film takes the familiar idea of steam romance adventure and translates it into a classic rom-com endeavor for some sweeping moments of steamy romance and larger-than-life comedy / action that takes little spirt of the Indiana Jones tropes along for the ride. While the movie struggles to color outside the lines of a formulaic nature as well as lacking in the story / character departments, the film still manages to be passible endeavor for its target audience, especially thanks to the pacing, presentation, comedy, and the acting talents of both Bullock and Tatum. Personally, this movie was somewhere between okay and good. Yes, there are parts in the feature were spot on and the on-screen playfulness between Bullock and Tatum was charming, but the movie just felt more generic and could’ve been a lot more that was presented. Still, it’s enjoyable piece for an easygoing rom-com outing….through and through. Thus, my recommendation for the movie is a solid “Rent It” as the movie is worth seeing for a rental option for a “stay-at-home” date night and / or older family movie night viewing experience. It’s not worth buying or revisiting that much, but still effective for single viewing. In the end, while incredibly creative or pushing the boundaries cinematic storytelling, The Lost City has enough swagger and stride to understand what it wants to be and (mostly) achieves that goal for a classic (yet clunky) tale of adventure, comedy, and romance within the guise of a typical rom-com framing.
3.4 Out of 5 (Rent It)
Released On: March 25th, 2022
Reviewed On: December 3rd, 2022
The Lost City 112 minutes long and is rated PG-13 for violence and some bloody images, suggestive material, partial nudity, and language