Another gray-panther valediction: At 82, John Boorman caps off his unpredictably schizo career with this sequel to 1987’s all-this-and-WWII boyhood memoir Hope and Glory, continuing the spry Brit’s semi-autobiography into the Fifties.
More than anything else, Boorman has always been a mythmaker (even Deliverance has a primal pagan flavor), and has never been deft at comedy, so this relaxed, casually plotted, and often adorable nostalgia-farce wilts with a deficit of raison d’être. There’s no Blitz or Arthurian drama here, just killing time.
Boorman’s alter ego, Billy Rohan (Callum Turner) is now nineteen and drafted into the Army during the Korean War — only to be held at home teaching typing to younger recruits, irritating his neurotically ramrod sergeant (a sympathetic David Thewlis). He pulls pranks with his itchy bunkmate (Caleb Landry Jones) and woos a mysterious and possibly bipolar up-classer (Tamsin Egerton).
Far too mild and minor to grab at the Catch-22 ring, Boorman’s movie oozes fond memories but doesn’t quite know how to make them relevant. The two pale and reptilian leads (Turner is in the lizardy mode of Bevelduck Gumbysquish, while Jones is distractingly froglike) are easily overshadowed by their elders, including Richard E. Grant as an impatient major, and Brían F. O’Byrne as a splenetic superior manically concerned with an antique clock the boys have stolen.
A pleasant old man’s movie, in the end, but not one for which Boorman will be remembered.