"Armageddon Time", splendid fifth selection in competition for James Gray

“Armageddon Time”, splendid fifth selection in competition for James Gray

For the fifth time in competition at the Cannes Film Festival since 2000, James Gray renews himself by presenting Armageddon Time where he deepened his favorite subject, family and filiation. He adds the themes of racism and social inequalities that are rampant in the United States, while the Black Lives Matter movement is in everyone’s mind.

In the 80s in New York, Paul, a turbulent teenager from a modest family, changes college and finds himself in a posh establishment where the father of Donald Trump, future President of the United States, oversees the board of directors. Paul remains faithful to his African-American friend Johnny, which weakens him in the eyes of the students of New York high society. Both dream of a better future and commit a theft that will turn their lives upside down.

Author of all his screenplays, James Gray is a formidable storyteller who uses genre film to explore the family, a major subject of American cinema. He went through the thriller (Little Odessa, The Yards, The Night belongs to us), the love movie (Two Lovers), melodrama (The Immigrant), the adventure film (The Lost City of Z), even science fiction (Ad Astra). Today he stands out from his references to genre films with Armageddon Time, on a resolutely social subject. His Russian-Ukrainian origins, coming from a family that immigrated to New York in 1920, permeate all his films.

If James Gray is recognized for the subtlety of his scripts, it is also found in his cinematography with splendid framing and lighting and in his direction of outstanding actors. The prize here goes to Anthony Hopkins who portrays a humanist patriarch at the end of his life, a moving supporting role. Also excellent, Jeremy Strong as a responsible father who is looking for his marks, sometimes violent and regretting it, and Anne Hathaway, a splendid protective and empathetic mother. As for the young Banks Repeta, he is just impressive in his role as a teenager in search of meaning and a future, as is with Jaylin Webb, his friend persecuted for his skin color. The two accomplices undoubtedly evoke The four hundred Blows by Francois Truffaut.

This is a textbook case that James Gray exposes by inviting the Trump family into the painting. The Jewish family in the film feels persecuted and endures Ronald Reagan’s first election as an ordeal. Yet their son joins a school run by the father of the future president of the United States, with an even more radical liberal ideology. His blatant racism is the subject of a recurring denunciation in the story, as is the increasingly deep gap that is widening between American social classes. A taboo subject in the country of the dollar, according to the director.

Armageddon Time proves to be a serious contender for the Palme, especially when one knows the social fiber of the president of the jury, Vincent Lindon. Actor, he will also recognize the wonderful interpretation of the actors, many of whom could end up on the list.

Anthony Hopkins and Banks Repeta  in "Armeddon Time" by James Gray (2022).  (2022 Focus Features, LLC)

Gender : Drama
Director: James Gray
Actors: Anne Hathaway, Jeremy Strong, Anthony Hopkins, Banks Repeta, Jaylin Webb,
Duration : 1h55
Exit : shortly
Distributer : Universal International Pictures

Summary: In the mid-1980s, the district of Queens in New York was under the hegemony of real estate developer Fred Trump, father of Donald Trump, the future President of the United States. A teenager studies at Kew-Forest School, where father Trump sits on the school board and Donald Trump is an alumnus.

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