Ad Astra Film Review
To say that Brad Pitt had a great year (both professionally and privately) is an understatement. He’s sober, focused and he already graced the screen in two of the best movies of the year. Once Upon A Time In Hollywood and Ad Astra. Let’s focus more on Ad Astra in this review.
Pitt is Major Roy McBride in Ad Astra. A cool and collected astronaut in his professional life but with a deep turmoil in his private life. His marriage is dissolving, his wife (Liv Tyler) leaves him at the very start of the movie and he’s been trying to reconcile with his father’s disappearance (Tommy Lee Jones) some 30 years before. H. Clifford McBride led the Lima Project, an elaborate search for intelligent life but nothing has been heard from his space ship for decades now. However, the Earth and the Solar System are in chaos in the near future. The Solar system is suffering because of the powerful electrical surges that pose a real threat for the entire humanity and it’s believed that the Lima Project is responsible for them. So it’s up to Roy to find his father’s ship and put an end to all of the space chaos once and for all.
Aside from being visually stunning Ad Astra is a slow-burning vehicle for Brad Pitt and Brad Pitt alone. Seriously. There are plenty of fabulous and extremely talented actors in this slow and extremely solemn movie, but aside from 2-3 decent scenes, most of them don’t even get past the 15 minutes mark in the screen-time. Donald Sutherland and Ruth Negga are some of the best actors of their generations and they’re reduced to a two-scene forgettable treatment- which is a crying shame. Don’t even get me started on Natasha Lyonne and Liv Tyler, but yeah. If you can’t get enough of Brad Pitt, Ad Astra is the perfect movie for you. There’s not a scene that he’s not in and when for some reason he’s not there’s the voice over. Lots and lots of voice over.
But I’m not complaining. What the movie is lacking in revolutionary groundbreaking innovation, Ad Astra makes up is visual splendor and slow-burning straightforward plot development. Roy needs to go to Neptune and in the process need to stop by the Moon, Mars and several other places. It’s a road movie set in Space. It’s a basic A to B to C trajectory and I can only applaud the simplicity in the concept. But instead of finding ET-like creatures, Pitt’s character will fight some crazy space pirates and some vicious monkeys in the process. I’m not joking. The Gorilla scene is one of the scariest I’ve witnessed in a long time and it was not something i expected to see in a serious SF movie. And because Pitt’s character has the central focus, his character is probably the most developed of all. We get glimpses of his father’s mission, his character, and career leading up to his disappearance but yeah. Brad’s Roy character is the front and center of this movie.
Roy is everything in this story. And I do mean everything. He’s the narrator, the main character and the force that drives the movie from one minute to the next. But Bra’s really good here. Like really well. And he’s nailing the duality of the flawed hero persona that he’s got going for himself here in Ad Astra. His marriage is in ruins, but his career is flourishing. He’s emotionally cool under pressure at work but emotionally distant in his private life. He’s really strong, precise and stable at first, but begins to lose his grip as the movie progresses. As expected Pitt shines in this complex role but you already knew that right? He’s been on top of his game for a while now, but what’s also worth mentioning here is the fantastic direction and masterful cinematography. The direction from James Grey and the cinematography from Hoyte van Hoytema complete the movie-watching experience. You get a hint of Kubrick’s Space Odyssey, a dash of Tarkovsky’s Solaris in the visual shots, set design and the overall tone of the movie.
But I think that the biggest lessons in Ad Astra can be learned from Roy and his father. That’s right from the characters. The movie’s point is not to convince us whether or not extraterrestrial life exists. Or if we could be going to Neptune in the not so distant future. Or if we could colonize the Moon. Far from it. It’s all about having a mission. A purpose. Whether that mission lasts 30 days or 30 years. Regardless if that mission (or purpose) is in your work place or in your private life. The driving force, the will to complete it, is much stronger than the end result. The journey is what counts. Not the finish line. And Ad Astra knows it. Ad Astra is amazing. A movie I would highly recommend.