Distributor: Walt Disney Studios
Production Companies: 20th Century Fox, Regency Enterprises, Bona Film Group, New Regency, Plan B Entertainment, RT Features, Keep Your Head Productions, MadRiver Pictures & TSG Entertainment
Director: James Gray
Producers: Brad Pitt, Dede Gardner, Jeremy Kleiner, James Gray, Anthony Katagas, Rodrigo Teixeira & Amon Milchan
Scriptwriter: James Gray
Main Cast: Brad Pitt, Tommy Lee Jones, Ruth Negga, Liv Tyler & Donald Sutherland
Released: September 18 2019
Running Time: 124 Minutes
Ad Astra is set in the near future and follows the story of astronaut Roy McBride son of famed pioneering astronaut H. Clifford McBride. After a number of highly dangerous power surges strike all across the solar system, Roy is tasked with confirming the cause of the surges and destroying the power source responsible for them. Roy soon learns however, that the expected cause of the unusual surges is in fact his fathers final expedition – the LIMA project, last known to be situated on Neptune, which he embarked on over 30 years ago and had been presumed as dead.
Upon taking the mission, Roy left everything behind, including his former partner who had left due to how distant Roy was becoming, in the hope of finding his father and bringing him home. Accompanied by an old associate of his father, Roy is sent to the U.S Space Command’s underground station on Mars in the hope of establishing a connection with his estranged father, however when it seems there is a breakthrough Roy is immediately taken off the mission and ordered back to earth. With the realisation that the US Space Command intend to destroy both his father and anything from the LIMA project, Roy decides to take action and attempt to sneak on board the shuttle heading to Neptune, but he is forced into action when the team on board are ordered to take him down.
What follows is a daring one-man mission, showing the brutal effect both space travel and loneliness have on a human, with an extremely satisfying end to it all that I won’t spoil here.
The film starts with a Brad Pitt monologue that is ever present throughout the entire film, helping the audience understand his thought process each step of the way, which is fitting considering his performance is far and away the best part of the film. Pitt phenomenally portrays the troubled Roy McBride, with the little nuances in his performance allowing the viewer to connect with such a distant character. You can understand the extent of Roy’s inner demons through the facial expressions in Pitt’s extremely poignant performance alone. There is a definite argument to be made for a Best Actor Oscar nomination for the veteran actor.
Outside of Pitt’s show-stealing performance, the film is an incredible example of captivating storytelling and beautiful cinematography. James Gray manages to encapsulate both the scale and grandeur of space, whilst simultaneously keeping the story extremely grounded and believable, resulting in one of the most realistic interpretations of space travel and technology in the future. A lot of this stems from the incredible visuals throughout. From fantastic landscape shots showing planet surfaces and space stations to the numerous close ups on Pitt throughout to really emphasise his performance, Gray produces an incredible juxtaposition in the size of the universe compared to our protagonist. The film itself is extremely character driven, and a slow burner at times however you are hooked from the get-go and definitely along for the ride.
The only critique I had with the film would be the supporting cast. I felt like beyond Pitt, none of the cast were given a chance to really offer much to the story – even though there were a number of intriguing characters. Ruth Negga’s ‘Helen Lantos’ in particular had an extremely intriguing back story, however it was never really explored beyond a brief conversation with the protagonist. As I mentioned earlier, Pitts performance is the best part of the film for sure, with his character arc being the main focus throughout the film, however because of this a number of the supporting casts character arcs were left without conclusions.
Ad Astra is an extremely enjoyable sci-fi film, with another phenomenal performance for Brad Pitt to add to his filmography. Incredible visuals and an extremely interesting story make Ad Astra a worthwhile watch at the cinema and could even produce another Oscar nomination for Pitt himself.
Overall Rating: 8/10 – Very Good