Ad Astra

“What are you looking at?!”
Verdict: 
7/10 - This sci-fi epic is beautiful and ambitious but lacks emotional resonance
Release Date: 
Friday, September 20, 2019
Written by: 

Brad Pitt stars as an astronaut who travels across the solar system to find his missing father

7

Brad Pitt has been having a terrific 2019 professionally. After an impressive turn in Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, he now stars in Ad Astra, which earned rave reviews when it debuted at the Venice Film Festival.

Pitt stars as astronaut Roy McBride, who discovers his father Clifford McBride (Tommy Lee Jones) may still be alive after abandoning him and his mother to go on a research mission to Neptune many years before.

Officials believe McBride's ship, The Lima Project, is responsible for' The Surge' - charges of electrical power threatening the solar system and life on Earth, so Roy goes on a mission across space to find his father and uncover the truth.

If you're expecting Ad Astra to be an action-packed thriller you'd be mistaken. It's actually a slower, quieter, more thoughtful drama that presents an intimate story about Roy dealing with issues of abandonment and solitude.

His father leaving him and his mother when he was a teenager has had an impact on his later personal relationships - especially with his estranged wife Eve (Liv Tyler) - and he needs to face the source of his pain to move on.

There are some thrills along the way though, as the film is more than the central mission.

Roy gets involved in all sorts of chaos on his journey, including an exciting moon buggy chase and a mayday rescue mission which briefly goes into thriller/horror territory.

These adventures were exciting and welcome additions to the main story.

 

This is very much the Brad Pitt show. He is in every scene and he does some of his best work in years, subtly playing a man who has to confront his feelings of anger and resentment towards his father as well as come to terms with the fact that he's alive when he's been presumed dead for years and he might not be the hero everyone thinks he is.

His co-stars all have very minor parts, with Ruth Negga and Donald Sutherland making brief but important appearances as astronauts, Tyler starring in McBride's dreamy flashbacks, and there's a blink and you'll miss it moment featuring Natasha Lyonne.

Despite the film exploring that father-son relationship, Ad Astra felt emotionally hollow.

It doesn't connect or resonate on an emotional level, so you're never fully invested in McBride's mission, and there is no satisfying pay-off at the end.

Director James Gray had epic ambitions for Ad Astra and he pulled them off. The movie is beautiful, looks visually stunning and features a moving score by Max Richter.

However, there is an over-reliance on voiceovers, with Pitt guiding the audience through this mission and confiding his innermost thoughts and feelings in a slow, serious manner.

Gray presents viewers with an exciting and gripping space adventure which doesn't have the emotional impact it should.

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