Title – Ad Astra (2019)
Director – James Gray (The Lost City of Z)
Cast – Brad Pitt, Donald Sutherland, Tommy Lee Jones, Liv Tyler, Ruth Negga
Plot – Astronaut Roy McBride (Pitt) travels to the far recesses of the known universe in search of his missing father and fellow space explorer Clifford McBride (Lee Jones) whose mysterious mission 30 years previously now threatens mankind’s existence.
“Up there is where our story is going to be told”
Review by Eddie on 23/09/2019
As a word of warning, when it comes to Ad Astra, don’t believe the trailers.
If you have seen James Gray’s long gestating sci-fi’s trailers/ads you’d be expecting an action packed Sci-fi odyssey and while there’s action and thrills to be found in Gray’s Brad Pitt starring adventure, Ad Astra is first and foremost a contemplative character study and examination of parental bonds, that just so happens to have eye capturing space scenery for it to play out in.
Gray’s film takes us to the Moon (featuring a thrilling vehicle chase), Mars and Neptune, while opening with a stunning high atmosphere maintenance job gone wrong that is worth the price of a cinema ticket alone but Gray and his on form A-lister are more concerned with exploring the inner workings of Pitt’s stoic and potentially emotionally void astronaut Roy McBride, who has been pulled into a universe spanning mission to unlock the mystery around his father H. Clifford McBride’s disappearance while on a life-altering space voyage.
Roy McBride is a layered character, a man who has never shown nerves or usual human inhibitions as he undertakes his various dangerous tasks, but a man none the less shaped and formed by his father’s disappearance and quest and through both Pitt’s at times understated yet beautifully formed turn, McBride becomes one of the years most memorable cinematic creations and a chance for Pitt to remind us all that his one of the very best performers working in the industry today.
There may be other’s listed on the cast list of Ad Astra such as Donald Sutherland, Ruth Negga, Tommy Lee Jones and the may as well have not shown up Liv Tyler as McBride’s estranged wife Eve but make no mistake about it, this is Pitt’s film, with the star appearing in virtually every scene, often with DOP Hoyte Van Hoytema’s camera formed somewhere close to the actors face (giving off similar vibes to last year’s First Man).
This allows Pitt to produce one of his most memorable lead turns and he gives Ad Astra an added power that may not have been there with someone else filling McBride’s weighty space boots and on the back of his Oscar worthy supporting turn this year in Once Upon a Time In…Hollywood, 2019 has become quite the year for Pitt, who in the previous years has taken more of a backseat role in proceedings rather than an in front of camera one.
As McBride’s deep space quest (that hearkens back in theme and events to cinematic behemoth Apocalypse Now) takes him further and further into the darkness of the unknown both externally and internally, we are witness to an emotionally charged and personally fulfilling life-shaping experience that is carefully portrayed by Gray and through Pitt’s inner monologues, that provide us with an insight into a man slowly but surely coming to terms with who he is and what is important to him.
Ad Astra’s space-mission with a difference isn’t all smooth sailing as the film suffers slightly from pacing issues early on that take a while to get use to, the films somewhat anti-climactic finale feels like it could’ve been reworked for maximum efficiency, while a word of warning to those cinematic scientists out there that found Interstellar’s scientific flaws too much to overcome, Ad Astra has ample holes to be found in its space science that aren’t even trying to be hid, so if that’s a game changer, give Gray’s film a very wide berth.
Final Say –
Mass audiences may not be ready for Ad Astra’s more intimate approach to the space epic, that may cover a lot of genre staples but in a way we have yet to see utilized before but for those that connect with Roy McBride’s more personal experience with the great beyond that ponders the questions of mankind and its inability to overcome its flaws, Ad Astra will become one of the year’s most memorable original outings that features an awards worthy Pitt as its centrepiece.
4 space baboons out of 5