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If Lifetime embarked on an ambitious plan to remake literary masterpieces, its Heart of Darkness would probably look something like The Disappearance of McKinley Nolan. And that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Disappearance has all the ingredients of a good geezer drama. There’s the title character, a Vietnam soldier who went native, deserting the U.S. Army in 1967 to join the Viet Cong. There’s one-legged vet Dan, a former lieutenant burdened by the horrors he saw as a young man. And there’s Nolan’s aging brother, searching for the sibling who disappeared into the jungle almost 40 years before. So why does the film feel like it’s never really there? Blame director Henry Corra, who hammers your skull with one-dimensional emotionality. Based on a report from Dan, who swears he saw McKinley in Vietnam during a recent visit, Corra takes him and Michael back to the jungle to track down the ghost. Scenes in which he splices Lt. Dan’s narrative with classic footage of the horrors of war feel forced and out of place. “What starts out as an investigation,” said Corra in an interview with the Maryland Business Gazette, “becomes totally about the mourning process. That’s the kind of trick in the movie.” It’s certainly a cruel trick, given the vaguely parasitic way in which Corra documents Michael’s eventual acceptance of his brother’s death. Corra pulls Michael from a tiny Texas town and drops him in Vietnam in order to “record” his mourning—the entire adventure’s canned.
At 9:30 p.m. at AFI Silver Theater 2; also on Saturday, June 26, at 5 p.m. at AFI Silver Theater 1.