Release Date: September 20th, 2019
Cast: Brad Pitt, Donald Sutherland, Tommy Lee Jones
Director: James Gray
Studio: 20th Century Fox, Regency Enterprises, Bona Film Group, New Regency, Plan B Entertainment, RT Features, Keep Your Head Productions, MadRiver Pictures
Distributor: Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures
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An astronaut is called up on a special mission, to stop the man behind a mysterious series of disasters threatening the solar system – his father.
If you weren’t already sold by that, then maybe this’ll help: it stars Brad Pitt and Tommy Lee Jones! Better? Yeah, of course it is. James Gray’s latest flick following 2016’s Lost City of Z is another tale of exploration, obsession, and fatherhood set amidst a hard sci-fi backdrop that rules.
Brad Pitt plays an astronaut who is… disconnected to put it gently. His heart rate never goes above 80, he is focused on the mission to the exclusion of all else, he is the most prepared for the hardships of a space journey… But is that a good thing? After all, the goal is to reach his long lost father, surely that will shake him…
Ad Astra explores the concept of self, of family, of obligation and love and what it means to live, and it isn’t shy about it. The ongoing narration from Pitt puts it in sharp relief exactly how he is examining the turn of events and what they mean to him. But he does it through this monotonous tone that illuminates just as it mesmerizes.
Speaking of mesmerized, huge shot out to Max Richter. His music is the backbone of the film. In many shots, it is the only thing keeping us company during the spectacle of space travel and it accompanies the long, droning, of space flight well.
The world building in Ad Astra is also worthy of praise. Feeling closer to a hard sci-fi novel of the ’60s than a space travel flick of today, Ad Astra sets up its world of the near future in the most believable way yet.
We see a great wide array of sci-fi ideas as well. From a great big space antenna in the opening scene, to Moon pirates (it’s great) to satellites, we cover the gamut of human space potential. Space flight to the Moon is commercial, the lunar colony is more the inside of a mall than an extra-terrestrial hub. But that’s believable, and further serves to ground the movie in the real potential of the future.
It speaks to the idea that man isn’t going anywhere if there isn’t a buck to be made, which of course fits with the overall theme of the movie – we can’t outrun our problems, no matter how far we go and there’s nothing coming to save Us. It might feel bleak but the movie presents it in an oddly hopeful spin.
So it’s interesting that, with all this praise, with all these individually great pieces it feels as if the film is missing something by just this much. It seems as if the movie, while firing on all cylinders, isn’t putting out the exact oomph it could be. It’s not a perfect film, but there are few flaws (if any).
Ad Astra is in theaters everywhere – see it on the biggest screen you can.