At heart, though, odd as it sounds, Gray has created a pocket-sized version of “Apocalypse Now.” Ad Astra bends the Francis Ford Coppola Vietnam-era extravagance, about the rogue commander, Kurtz, and the errand boy, Willard, into its own thing. Like Coppola’s film, and the Joseph Conrad novel “Heart of Darkness," the new film examines the limits of colonialist hubris. It’s also, and primarily, a father/son parable of betrayal, confrontation and forgiveness.
The film’s half-real, half-fantasy treatment of a fact-based story is almost really good. But “good enough” is good enough, thanks mostly to Jennifer Lopez dining out on her best role in years. She’s terrific.
Gottsagen is not disabled. He has Down syndrome. He is also as able-bodied and innately appealing a screen performer as we’ve seen in 2019. Nilson and Schwartz made good on their promise to Gottsagen, and now he has returned the favor.
Brian Banks proceeds non-chronologically, toggling between high school years and Banks’ post-prison life. This helps keep the audience on its toes. But it’s the actors who complicate things most fruitfully.
Writer-director Tilman Singer casts a trancelike swirl incorporating elements of hypnosis, demonic transference, memories of sexual abuse and one of the furthest-out, least by-the-book police procedurals put on film.