Ad Astra (2019) starring Brad Pitt throws three punches from the get-go. Three heavy swings, which pave the path for the film that follows.
- Thanks to composer Max Richter, Ad Astra features a stunning score threaded with emotional tones.
- This film is about one man. A dimensional character played expertly by Brad Pitt, with confidence, composure, thirst, fear, regret.
- Ad Astra isn’t Science Fantasy. It’s Science Fiction. Ideas are grounded. It isn’t hard to imagine these concepts as realities in the near future.
These three ingredients have tremendous consistency throughout the two-hour run time. Thanks to this, the film, though publicly overlooked and underappreciated, is a rare success.
Cinema Space Age
In 1957, the Soviet Union launched the world’s first artificial satellite into orbit. Many historians consider this event the beginning of the Space Age.
In 1968, Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey premiered in theatres. I consider this the start of the “Cinema Space Age.”
And like the genuine Space Age, the Cinema equivalent is only picking up pace. With every decade, every discovery, every newfound piece of technology, it goes a little further. The last decade more than ever, Hollywood romanticized, scrutinized, and even criticized space travel through pop culture.
- The Martian
- First Man
- Lucy in the Sky
- I could go on…
Ad Astra: Brief Overview
And here’s a little fact for you, Thesaurus’s 2019 Word of the Year: existential. Well, like the best of the rest, “existential” is a fine-fitting word for describing Director James Gray’s Ad Astra.
To briefly summarize the plot of Ad Astra: one astronaut, Major Roy McBride, must journey into deep space to find his absent father (H. Clifford McBride played by Tommy Lee Jones) and unravel the truth about a strange wave of electrical surges in the solar system that threaten humanity’s survival.
Ad Astra, also written by James Gray, plays host to several action set pieces throughout the film. Each one, accompanied by stunning cinematography and outstanding visual effects, is dissimilar to the other. Really, all of the scenes contrast what you might find in films from the same genre.
Scenes in Ad Astra (Latin: To the Stars) don’t abide by “danger out in space” cliches. James Gray did a great job in offering something original by bringing the action and the suspense closer to what we can recognize visually.
As I said, Ad Astra is Science Fiction, not Fantasy.
Brad Pitt Deserves An Oscar Nomination
Brad Pitt is up for one Academy Award this year, for his supporting role in Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood.
I’m somewhat bothered I don’t see a nomination for his lead performance in Ad Astra. As Major Roy McBride, Brad Pitt gives his everything. By doing the exact opposite.
While Ad Astra’s narrative details a fair deal about Roy McBride’s integrity through ongoing narration and occasional psychological evaluations, outside his shell the man is reserved.
Brad Pitt succeeds where plenty fail. He portrays a convincing astronaut. He’s smart, systematic and for the best part, undramatic.
While there are floors in Ad Astra’s plot, and there are decisions you might argue have been made for the sole purpose of driving the film’s story forward, the character development of Roy McBride suspends these criticisms.
While Ad Astra should be applauded for its beautifully pragmatic, albeit precarious, interpretation of space and our solar system, it’s the single life closest to the lens that keeps Ad Astra from getting lost in space.
Conclusion: Ad Astra
Ad Astra is definitely worth a watch, especially if you like science fiction and great acting. Brad Pitt stands out as the leading man, in a film that orbits around him.
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