‘Ad Astra’ was directed by James Gray and stars Brad Pitt, as an astronaut sent on a one-way mission to the edge of the Solar System, to find and locate his father (played by Tommy Lee Jones) who went missing after an expedition went wrong, that may be causing the destruction of Earth as we know it.
Bratt Pitt has had a very good 2019 with this as well as Quentin Tarantino’s ‘Once Upon A Time In Hollywood’ and between the two I would say the performances are equally strong. ‘Ad Astra’ follows a similar narrative structure that you would find in the classic Francis Ford Coppolla film ‘Apocolypse Now’, but ties in more personal conflict and stakes as Brad Pitt is searching for his father. What the film does bring with stunning visuals and a more personal story, it fails to capture the scope that was needed to tell this story properly.
Firstly, Brad Pitt is fantastic in the role. He plays his character as a Neil Armstrong type, specifically pointing out in the film his bpm in the never reaches over 80bpm even in the tensest of situations. The opening scene really kickstarts the film and is able to continue that energy into the second act. I really loved the cinematography and space effects, director James Gray is really doing some of his best work on this film and it shows in the moments with Brad Pitts character and when tension is ramping up.
Another aspect I loved was how great the world-building was in the first half of the movie. They make is very realistic that in this story humanity has progressed far in space exploration, but not in an unrealistic way but in a tangible way. It helped ground this out of this world story and I enjoyed learning about the different aspects of the world in the film.
If you’ve seen Gray’s previous film, ‘The Lost City of Z’, you know that he tends to focus on not the reward at the end of the journey, but the journey itself, and with ‘Ad Astra’ it seems he is more conflicted on how to spend the films time, fleshing out Bradd Pitts character or impressing his audience with fun action and tense suspense sequences. It doesn’t have enough character development to say it’s a fantastic character study, but it’s not as big and bombastic as a space adventure should be to consider this an action film. It lies somewhere in the middle and depending on how you interpret the ending to mean for you, will decide your overall feeling leaving the theater.
Overall, ‘Ad Astra’ is a slow burn space adventure, with a knockout performance by Brad Pitt and euphoric visuals, but fails to deliver in the 3rd act in terms of character and story.
I’m giving ‘Ad Astra’ a 7/10