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It’s said more than once in the true-life adventure “The Lost City of Z” (⋆⋆⋆½, PG-13 for violence, disturbing images, profanity and some nudity) that a man’s reach should exceed his grasp. The motto applies to the heroic lead character, Percy Fawcett (Charlie Hunnam).

As an explorer of the remarkably perilous jungles of early-20th-century South America, home to snakes, cannibals and headhunters, and as a British Army officer on the front lines in France in World War I, he was a learned gentleman and a fearless daredevil.

The reach-exceeding-grasp maxim also relates to the creativity captured by James Gray, the writer/director of the film, which opens the Minneapolis St. Paul International Film Festival Thursday evening. Gray shows he can create a world that looks old-school yet feels relevant. For someone whose films to date have been emotional rather than epic, this is one heck of a stretch. And a successful one.

The film balances insights into Victorian standards of honor and duty with a grip on contemporary attitudes about the era’s assertive colonialism.

It also digs into the troubled relationships Fawcett’s relentless exploration created with his wife (Sienna Miller) and eldest son (Tom Holland, the new Spider-Man).

It’s showing at St. Anthony Main at 7 and 7:20 p.m. Thursday (see details at mspfilm.org).

Check Friday’s Variety section for a rundown of the fest’s first-week films

Colin Covert