Armageddon Time (James Gray, 2022, USA/Brazil)

Armageddon Time is the latest film by director James Gray. Following the trend this year of directorial biopics as seen from Steven Spielberg's The Fabelmans to Sam Mendes' Empire of LightArmageddon Time finds Gray recalling his childhood on the eve of Ronald Reagan's election in 1980. Our stand-in for James Gray is Paul Graff, played by Banks Rebeta, who starred earlier this year in The Black Phone. The film rests largely on Rebeta's soldiers, and he carries the film well. He is believable as a misfit kid who has artistic aspirations but is weighted down by the reality of life.

Paul's parents are played by Anne Hathaway (Esther Graff) and Jeremy Strong (Irving Graff). Both are convincing in their roles. Less convincing is Anthony Hopkins as Aaron Rabinowitz, Paul's grandfather. While some plot details explain Hopkins' accent, it is hard to believe at any point in the film that he is being anything other than a Welshman. Jaylin Webb plays Johnny Davis, Paul's black friend from the local public school who - like Paul - has high aspirations of moving to live with family in Florida and joining NASA.

While Armageddon Time falters with its narrative moment (in trying not to fall into too many cliches, the film seems to lack an overall arch or impetus and feels very elliptical), the attention to detail and the recreations of a time past are imbued with a strong sense of nostalgia. The feel of that period has been replicated well here. And anyone who has ever felt that their parents didn't understand their dreams will identify with this film. The film's narrative climax feels somewhat misjudged. Armageddon Time is not a masterpiece but worth watching for Rebeta and its reconstruction of an era and milieu in New York that has since disappeared. 



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