Lost City, The (4K UHD Review)
DirectorAdam Nee, Aaron Nee
Release Date(s)2022 (July 26, 2022)
Studio(s)Fortis Films/3dot Productions/Exhibit A (Paramount Pictures)
- Film/Program Grade: C-
- Video Grade: A-
- Audio Grade: A-
- Extras Grade: C-
The Lost City is the latest romantic comedy vehicle for Sandra Bullock, in this case placing her rom-com antics into a tropical adventure à la Romancing the Stone. The film was in development at Paramount long before she became attached to the project, and she initially wasn’t interested in it at all. The basic story from Seth Green didn’t break the mold enough for her, as she explained to The Hollywood Reporter: “There weren’t any obstacles for the female character. And the male character we’ve seen before.” She went back to Paramount and suggested that the main roles be reversed, making hers more courageous, and the male lead more timid. The studio was happy to oblige, and Bullock ended up joining the project as both actor and producer, hiring brothers Aaron and Adam Nee direct and develop a script (along with co-writers Oren Uziel and Dana Fox). The results still don’t quite break the mold of the many other romantic adventures that preceded The Lost City, but they’re diverting enough.
Loretta Sage (Sandra Bullock), the author of a series of romantic novels featuring the adventures of Dr. Angela Lovemore and her muscular sidekick Dash McMahon. The books have become a form of wish-fulfillment for her, but since the death of her own archaeologist husband, she’s lost her romantic mojo and is suffering from writer’s block. Her publisher Beth (Da’Vine Joy Randolph) tries to shake her out of her complacency by putting her on a book tour alongside their dopey Fabio-esque cover model Alan (Channing Tatum). Loretta ends up being kidnapped by a billionaire industrialist (Daniel Radcliffe) who feels that her research skills hold the key to unlocking his quest for an ancient artifact called The Crown of Fire. He whisks her away to a tropical island in search of it, so Beth and Alan enlist the aid of former navy seal Jack Trainer (Brad Pitt) to track her down. Loretta will end up finding herself caught in a triangle between Jack, who seems to be the man of her dreams, and Alan, who is the man who really cares for her. Yet nothing is going to turn out the way that any of them would have planned. The Lost City also stars Oscar Nuñez, Patti Harrison, Héctor Aníbal, Thomas Forbes-Johnson, and Sli Lewis (watch also for Stephen Lang in a cameo during a fantasy sequence).
As that description should make clear, The Lost City is effectively Romancing the Stone by way of Tropic Thunder, with the key role reversal of making one of the male heroes much less heroic. That’s not the only twist, either, and while the story remains safe and predictable for most of The Lost City’s running time, there are still a few mildly transgressive twists along the way (even if they’ve really been borrowed from other films). The Brothers Nee insisted on shooting on real locations, and there’s also a laudable emphasis on practical stunts, so that does give things a veneer that’s distinct from the usual non-stop green screen work—though to be fair, the finale does rely heavily on CGI, but that was out of necessity given the needs of the narrative. The film suffers from some fairly leaden humor, including one running gag relying on a premise that’s simply incorrect, which spoils the joke a bit. Still, Bullock hasn’t lost any of her charm, and while Tatum’s charms may be a matter of taste, there’s always Brad Pitt. (Or is there?) Role reversals or not, The Lost City doesn’t break new ground, but it doesn’t really have to, especially for Sandra Bullock fans. It still delivers enough of the rom-com goods to keep them happy.
Cinematographer Jonathan Sela captured The Lost City digitally at 4.5K resolution in ARRIRAW format using ARRI ALEXA Mini LF cameras with Cooke Anamorphic/i lenses. While there’s no information available regarding how post-production work was completed, it does appear to have utilized a 2K Digital Intermediate, framed at 2.39:1 for its theatrical release. That 2K DI has been upscaled to 4K here and graded in High Dynamic Range for both Dolby Vision and HDR10. It’s a generally sharp image, with refined textures for foreground details like skin and clothing, but the background details like grass and vegetation aren’t necessarily quite as well resolved. It’s still an improvement over the Blu-ray, however, proving once again the benefits of upscaling at the uncompressed source. Still, it’s the HDR grade that provides the most benefits. The Lost City is a colorful film by design, with plenty of contrast between the lush greens of the vegetation, the warm glows of the fires, and the bold purples of Loretta’s infamous sequined jumpsuit. The actual contrast range is quite good as well, although the black levels aren’t always particularly deep. Everything runs at a modest bit rate averaging in the 50Mbps range, but there aren’t any major encoding artifacts of note. It’s not the most dazzling 4K presentation, but it’s a generally pretty one.
Primary audio is offered in English Dolby Atmos. In keeping with the character of the film itself, it’s a moderately atmospheric and engaging mix, if not a particularly inspired one. The surrounds and overheads are active throughout most of the film, although they’re often dialed down to a relatively low level (arguably too low during some scenes, like Da’Vine Joy Randolph’s ride aboard Oscar Nuñez’s rickety plane). Atmospheric engagement remains constant, though, and it occasionally springs to active life (and more prominent volume levels) during sequences like the finale set on a volcanic island. There’s some deep bass when it’s called for, such as the aforementioned volcanic rumblings. The score by Pinar Toprak is supplemented by an interesting but odd collection of lyrically inappropriate needle drops that seem to have been chosen for musical effect only—that’s readily apparent when there’s an awkward edit in the middle of the opening lines of Pat Benatar’s Shadows of the Night just to make the percussion time perfectly with an explosion. (Why they wouldn’t edit the scene to match the music, instead of the music to match the scene, remains an unanswered question.)
Additional audio options include English Descriptive Audio, plus the following 5.1 Dolby Digital tracks: Czech, German, Spanish (Spain), Spanish (Latin America), French, French (Canada), Italian, and Japanese. Subtitle options include English, English SDH, Cantonese, Czech, Danish, German, Spanish (Spain), Spanish (Latin America), French, French (Canada), Italian, Japanese, Korean, Mandarin, Norwegian, Polish, Romanian, Simplified Chinese, Slovak, Finish, Swedish, and Thai.
Paramount’s 4K Ultra HD release of The Lost City is UHD only—meaning that it doesn’t include a Blu-ray copy of the film, but it does offer a Digital Code on a paper insert tucked inside the case, as well as a slipcover. The following extras are included, all of them in HD:
- Dynamic Duo (4:42)
- Location Profile (7:09)
- Jungle Rescue (6:25)
- The Jumpsuit (3:41)
- Charcuterie (3:32)
- The Villains of The Lost City (5:29)
- Building The Lost City (7:23)
- Deleted Scenes (8:52, 8 in all)
- Bloopers (5:33)
The extras are all standard EPK fluff, featuring brief snippets of interviews with the cast and crew, as well as some limited behind-the-scenes footage. They’re all fairly self-explanatory, too. Dynamic Duo covers the relationship between the characters played by Bullock and Tatum, as well as the way that Bullock guided the film as producer. Location Profile examines the location shooting. Jungle Rescue looks at some of the action sequences, with an emphasis on doing as much at possible for real. The Jumpsuit is about just that: how Bullock’s outfit became a character of its own. Charcuterie will make sense to anyone who’s already watched the film, but if you haven’t, you’ll just have to discover it for yourself. The Villains of The Lost City gives Daniel Radcliffe his due, but it doesn’t overlook Héctor Aníbal, Thomas Forbes-Johnson, and Sli Lewis playing his henchmen, either. Building The Lost City looks at the production design and the sets, and how they were used to support the story.
The Deleted Scenes include eight different ones: Spying on Fairfax, Beth Looks for Loretta, The Climb, Alison’s Dance, Hammock, Navigates Drone, Loretta Calls Nana, and Trainer Has a Headache. They’re all pretty inessential, although a few of them would have provided Patti Harrison with a bit more screen time. There’s also a moment that puts one shot from the film into a different context, as well as one that redefines a supporting character. Finally, the Bloopers reel is mostly a typical collection of flubbed lines and mugging for the camera, but there are also some examples of how much ad-libbing was involved on set.
It’s a largely forgettable collection of extras for a not particularly memorable film. Still, The Lost City is diverting enough, even if it doesn’t do much to distinguish itself from other examples of the genre, and it’s a solid if unspectacular 4K presentation on UHD.
- Stephen Bjork
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