Time: 123 Minutes
Brad Pitt as Roy McBride
Tommy Lee Jones as H. Clifford McBride
Ruth Negga as Helen Lantos
Liv Tyler as Eve
Donald Sutherland as Colonel Pruitt
Director: James Gray
Thirty years ago, Clifford McBride (Tommy Lee Jones) led a voyage into deep space, but the ship and crew were never heard from again. Now his son (Brad Pitt) — a fearless astronaut — must embark on a daring mission to Neptune to uncover the truth about his missing father and a mysterious power surge that threatens the stability of the universe.
Ad Astra was a movie I was looking forward to for a little bit. It sounded interesting from the small amounts of details I heard, I liked the cast involved, and the premise sounded like something I could get on board for. I also heard a lot about writer and director James Gray, although The Lost City of Z was the only movie I had seen from him. Nonetheless I wasn’t exactly sure what to really expect going in. Ad Astra is fantastic and amongst the best science fiction films released in recent years.
Despite being misleading, much of the trailers and marketing are vague about the plot, and I also think it’s for your benefit that you don’t know too much going in, so I’ll avoid some plot details. After hearing about how slow Ad Astra was, it surprised me in how it moved much faster than I thought it was. Don’t get me wrong, it’s definitely a slow moving film, and if you’re not invested with the plot it’s going to be a chore for you. The movie was only 2 hours long and it did feel like it was that long, in a good way. As it was, I was personally wrapped up in the story and what was going on. There was always something happening as lead character Roy goes from place to place towards his goal. What the trailers didn’t indicate that was that it’s a very personal intimate movie. Now with it being about a man trying to find his long lost father it can be assumed that it would involve some personal element, but despite how large scale the movie is, it really is an intimate. When people compared Ad Astra to Heart of Darkness/Apocalypse Now, they weren’t entirely off, in regards to the journeys that the lead characters go on. It’s a very haunting movie, whether it be the obstacles and other things that Roy encounters or his own personal journey. I also thought the movie ended perfectly.
Brad Pitt plays the lead character of Roy McBride and he’s fantastic in the role. His character is very cold and quiet, and as the events of the movie progress and he begins to learn certain things, that facade begins to deteriorate. He’s very much affected by his father, and things that happened before affected the way that he acts now. There are times where you hear voiceovers from Pitt about his feelings. It’s a very subtle yet powerful and believable performance, one of Pitt’s best work. The supporting cast is good, with Tommy Lee Jones (as Pitt’s father), Ruth Negga, Liv Tyler and Donald Sutherland providing some good work. However don’t expect to see a ton of them throughout. It’s really Pitt who’s at the center of everything, the story is heavily relying on him, thankfully he delivers.
James Gray has directed this movie immensely well. It is absolutely stunning with some outstanding visual effects, Hoyte Van Hoytema has done some great work here and it’s unsurprising that the visuals here rivals Interstellar’s. I won’t go into too much detail about the locations and scenarios that the movie presents and I’m fully aware that this is science fiction and set in the future, but there were times where it seemed like one of the more realistic portrayals of space on the big screen that I’ve seen in a while. You really felt the weight of everything that was happening. The movie is also very contemplative and allows some space for the movie to breathe, usually having Pitt narrate during these moments. Max Richter always produces some very powerful music, and Ad Astra is no exception, it really added a lot to the movie.
No, Ad Astra isn’t going to work for everyone. It’s slower paced, and the trailers seemed to indicate a slightly more action paced and larger scaled movie than it actually was. However I personally loved the movie. It’s a very character driven and personal storyline that I was invested in, directed wonderfully, and the cast were great (particularly Brad Pitt). It’s one of my favourites of the year thus far.