Rob Reviews "Ad Astra"
In what can only be described as Stanley Kubrick doing “Apocalypse Now” in space, “Ad Astra” may not be the film that is being marketed. With a lot of quick cuts and out-of-sequence scenes that trailers and television spots tend to bring with “known” critics and their quotes, it may give the feeling that this is a grand space epic that is high on octane and adventure. While there is an element of that, this film is so much more.
From James Gray, director of 2016’s lukewarm “The Lost City of Z” (which he also co-wrote), Brad Pitt stars as Roy McBride, a second generation astronaut and absentee husband to Eve (Liv Tyler) in the “near future” whose father, Clifford (Tommy Lee Jones), disappeared seventeen years earlier on a mission to look for life on the outer reaches of our solar system. While Roy is working on a space station, energy surges start to happen that end up killing thousands around the world, and after Roy himself is injured, he is brought into a top secret meeting with Space Command where he learns that the power surges could be a result of activities near where his father disappeared. Working the theory that he may still be alive, Roy is sent on an even more top secret mission to try and contact him and bring him home. Or is it something even more?
This is more cerebral than action, more dialogue than explosions, but VERY effects heavy. Hot off the heels of his performance in “Once Upon a Time… In Hollywood,” Pitt continues to show why he has become one of the elite actors of this generation in a role that stretches him as a man whose stoic exterior hides a range of emotion that he represses in order to continue doing a job he feels is his destiny. By being forced to confront the feelings of his father that he never thought he would have had to, Roy starts on a downward spiral into madness that he can neither understand or prevent, and Pitt plays it all to the hilt. Jones is in this just enough to make the proper impact to the story, and there are also a couple of nice turns from Donald Sutherland and Ruth Negga. Even though all of the other characters outside of Roy seem to be throw-away in nature, they all still do their part to move this story along.
Although it could be seen as an attempt to re-capture the lightning in a bottle of “Gravity” to hopefully the same level of success and adulation, “Ad Astra” does stand on its own, but I am not sure if it is one that can be mentioned in the same breath as the former of the two. Pitt could be enough to garner some nominations here, but this will more find its audience in the art house crowd, even though the visuals here are nothing short of stunning. Being able to see this in IMAX did enhance the viewing for me, but I am not sure it will be enough to make it a blockbuster.