On paper I hate this. Fuck a hero's journey glorifying western imperialism. Yet, I loved it. The movie felt, to me, like a genuine meditation on the strange mystery of life. We find ourselves in places, with people, motivated by desire, motivated by responsibility. It's all very strange. This captures it. It isn't deep, but it is impactful. Hit me like a stoned epiphany that you never quite let go of.
There are certainly moments of brilliance here in Z, with an equal measure of shortcomings. Grey relies heavily on unsubtle dialogue to express character and motivation. His previous films defined a signature style that had much more texture to them, where he relied on body language, mood, and tone. The film, along with its lead character, finds identity in the final act.
It doesn't gather an awful lot of depth, indeed. But what it does – tell a story of life-long commitment to exploration, in the frame of white colonalism –, it does with gusto, without catering to the lowest common denominator. A bit like an Indiana Jones directed by Visconti. Or Herzog without the madness. 3+
Very disappointing movie by James Gray; for all its production history of a dedicated director's pursuit and adventurism in Amazon, it is a cold, insincere one, not to mention more than lacking in its political and social implications, them being either dubious or absent, which one is worst I can't tell.