Brad Pitt stars in “Ad Astra”.

Film Review – Ad Astra (2019)

Brad Pitt’s latest is a mature and thoughtful sci-fi journey that tends to eschew the noisy tactics of most current bid-budget box office stuff. It’s as much an internal voyage of discovery as it is a journey through the stars; a deliberate and determined story in the vein of Tarkovsky’s Solaris, Christopher Nolan’s recent Interstellar or even the new plus ultra of cinematic science fiction: 2001: A Space Odyssey.

In the near future the earth is shaken by a mysterious power surge, unleashing a wave of destruction. Major Roy Mcbride (Pitt) is working as part of the earth’s space programme on the very edge of the atmosphere when the wave hits. He is told, to his amazement, that the top brass believe the surge has come from a long-lost ship, the Lima Project, captained by Roy’s own father and lost some 16 years previously. Roy had given up his father for dead, but is now sent by Space Command to investigate the source of the pulse beyond Neptune, lest it repeat itself and threaten the whole of life on earth.

Methodical but relentless, James Gray’s movie unfolds like a futureal Heart of Darkness. Gray and Ethan Gross’s script focuses on the inner journey taken by its protagonist as much as the literal one. This is a movie about traversing great distances and crossing huge chasms of emotion as much as it is a story of pioneering exploration.

Pitt’s stoic hero seems hamstrung by the weight of expectation upon him and his life led in the shadow of his hero father. There’s an unfussy sense of heroism to Pitts performance here that reminds what a dynamic actor he has become, particularly in the last decade or so.

Visually stunning, with a cool, perhaps even cold sense of character, it will quite obviously bemuse plenty of people raised on a diet of Star Wars or Guardians of the Galaxy. As it happens, it’s exactly what we need from mainstream cinema now and forever. If it occasionally throws up the odd, rough-edged moment of action, you can forgive it the odd slip, so astutely imagined is it and so strong is the quiet sense of determination that resonates after it’s finished.


Mystery, Drama, Sci-Fi | USA, 2019 | 18th September 2019 (UK) | 20th Century Fox Pictures | Dir.James Gray | Brad Pitt, Tommy Lee Jones, Ruth Negga, Donald Sutherland, Live Tyler

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