DIRECTOR: james gray (we own the night, the immigran, the lost city of z)
starring: brad pitt, tommy lee jones, donald sutherland, and liv tyler
REVIEWER: lyall carter
A man journeys across a lawless solar system to find his missing father - a renegade scientist who poses a threat to humanity.
It seems there has been a resurgence in space movies in the last few years. From blockbuster Gravity to the more indie fare High Life, we have explored the depths of the human condition through the space sci fi film medium.
The exploration of a part of the human experience against the vast canvas of space is at the core of what makes a great space sci. And Ad Astra is very, very good.
Astronaut Roy McBride (Brad Pitt) travels to the outer edges of the solar system to find his missing father (Tommy Lee Jones) and unravel a mystery that threatens the survival of humans on Earth. His journey will uncover secrets that challenge the nature of human existence and its place in the cosmos.
Even though there are spine rattling take off sequences, a rover chase filled with laser gun fights on the freakin' moon, and a mad, human devouring baboon, at its heart Ad Astra is a story about a father and son. The space 'stuff' is glorious and a visual treat (especially if you watch it on IMAX), but the beating heart of this picture is the dysfunctional relationship Roy has with his father.
He chose to be an astronaut because of his astronaut father who had disappeared, believed lost, on a mission to space. And in his psych evaluations (which I thought was an easy, tired narration trick which turned out to be paramount to the telling of the story) he discovers that he is beginning to be a lot like his father in the worst possible way. But not only does he have to deal with becoming more like his father in a negative sense he also has to 'clean up' his fathers mistakes. Roy's journey of self discovery, attempt to make peace with his father, and attempt to step out of his father's shadow glues you to the screen.
But the essential element in this film, what really makes it tick, that makes it believable is Mr. Brad Pitt. His performance here is wondrous in its raw simplicity. Its measured, sombre, and an all together mature performance from Pitt. The rest of the cast - Sutherland, Jones, and Tyler barely feature but when they do make their brief appearances they are great as one would expect.
But this is Brad Pitt's movie. After Once Upon a Time...In Hollywood and now Ad Astra this has to be his year.
Brad Pitt is wondrous and gives a measured, raw performance in this intimate exploration of the dynamics of a father and son relationship told on the vast canvas of the cosmos.