Essential Movies is a look at some of the best films by Hollywood directors.
Three years after the official release of Ad Astra, James Gray returns with an intriguing period drama titled Armageddon Time. The critically acclaimed director has worked with many great Hollywood actors over the years, but this time he will join forces for the first time with Anthony Hopkins and Anne Hathaway. Armageddon Time has already premiered at the Cannes Film Festival earlier this year, receiving good reviews from the critics. Will the movie meet the fans’ taste as well? The film is already out, so it’s just a matter of time before the answer comes.
Here is the selection of the best James Gray movies to rewatch before (or after) seeing Armageddon Time.
Little Odessa (1994)
In his first long feature, Gray showed a maturity in his camera work that’s rare for a debuting director. The very intimate story reflects on Gray’s Russian origins in following the story of two brothers, Joshua (Tim Roth) and Reuben Shapira (Edward Furlong), in “Little Odessa,” a section of Brighton Beach, Brooklyn. Joshua is a hired killer for the Russian-Jewish mafia, while Reuben wants to reconnect with his older brother. The cast also featured Vanessa Redgrave, Maximilian Schell, and Moira Kelly. Little Odessa won the Silver Lion at the Venice Film Festival, recognizing Gray’s brilliant directing debut.
We Own The Night (2007)
Arguably, We Own The Night is the most mature crime story directed by Gray. At the 2007 Cannes Film Festival, the New York City-born artist released a gritty tale of a Russian family rooted in crime and corruption. For the occasion, he joined forces for the second time with Joaquin Phoenix and Mark Wahlberg, who are brothers again like they were in 2000’s The Yards. In the story, Bobby Green (Phoenix) changed his name to distance himself from his family. Bobby’s brother, Joe Grusinsky (Wahlberg), is an NYPD Captain investigating the ties between Bobby and Russian mobsters. When Joe’s investigations go too close to the truth, Bobby has to step in to save his family from the mobsters’ retaliation. The tough, dark movie earned over $55.3 million, overcoming its production budget.
Ad Astra (2019)
While Gray spent most of his career dealing with crime stories, the University of Southern California alum’s first foray into sci-fi resulted in his highest box office success to date. And in one of the best James Gray movies in general. In the late 21st century, U.S. Space Command major Roy McBride (Brad Pitt) hopes to find his father (Tommy Lee Jones), who went missing after his mission reached Neptune16 years before. The cast included Ruth Negga, Liv Tyler, and Donald Sutherland. Once more, Gray opted to premiere his film in Venice, Italy. Critics praised Pitt’s performance, arguably one of his most memorable roles in recent years. Ultimately, Ad Astra received an Oscar nomination for Best Sound Mixing.