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MOVIES: Armageddon Time - Review

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Armageddon Time exists, to put it bluntly as a warning to the future from the past wrapped up in a display of class, privilege suburbia and the fear of the unknown. Devoid of the nostalgia that haunts 80s set films and television shows, James Gray draws more inspiration from the likes of The 400 Blows, a loss of innocence at childhood, depicting the story between two friends fighting against the weapon of privilege itself - with the shadow of the second world war playing a heavy hand.

A deeply personal storyline to Gray - he casts The Black Phone's Banks Repeta as Paul, an artistic-minded child who aspires to create a legendary superhero. Paul befriends Jaylin Webb's Johnny Davis - as talented here as he was in Till; and the pair flunk field trips and get high together experiencing life for the first time. It's a natural progression of friendship and would be optimistic but for the looming tragedy that's about to happen - and Armageddon Time; borrowed from Reagan's quote about the Cold War generation living on the edge of Armageddon, the film uses it as a lense to peak into the rise of capitalist fascism with a literal honest-to-god appearance from a real-life despicable figure that was more of a horrifying moment than any horror movie this year. It's done with a wave of foresight and warning: Paul's desire to fit in clashes with the viewpoint of his grandfather, Anthony Hopkins' Aaron - who warns him never to do nothing, and always to take a stand. The scenes between Paul and his grandfather are tender-hearted but ultimately bittersweet - and that really sums up the entire movie.

A coming of age movie that avoids the usual trappings and has the heart and soul to spare, Armageddon Time backs its staying power up with a natural performance from all of the cast - Hopkins is steadfast as a rock holding the whole thing together, Repeta and Webb are both excellent. The self-conflictedness and guilt of Gray's filmography betrays its strengths and its weaknesses, but it allows for a human edge - the American dream and the pursuit of it is at its epicentre set against the backdrop of NASA and the space race, but the film is never above being aware of privilege or creating a false environment. It has a way of getting under your skin in a way that if you're only half watching, you won't realise - this was a film made for your full attention, as with all of Gray's body of work.

So honest, human and touching its warning to the present is the most overstated that the film gets but even that comes with a human and personal touch - the figures that Gray saw in this film really happened - and the complex, thought-provoking nature of it all really adds up to a quietly towering experience that may end up being among the best films of the year.

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