In James Gray’s dazzling space adventure, Ad Astra, Brad Pitt plays astronaut Roy McBride, a man on a mission to the outer edges of space. Looking for his father (Tommy Lee Jones), presumed to be dead, Roy heads out to Jupiter to see if he can find him. Roy’s mission is an exploration into space and a journey of self discovery.
Unlike recent cinematic space adventures, Roy isn’t a protagonist that swings in to save the day before the planet explodes or someone that figures out the right formula to save mankind from extinction. Roy is more quiet and contemplative than he is Captain America. He’s a flawed character that spends most of the film with a singular focus on the mission at hand while constantly watching and questioning the people around him. Very few people could pull off the role of Roy McBride and Brad Pitt is one of them.
Almost as interesting as Roy’s journey is the world of Ad Astra. There isn’t much time spent on the world Gray puts on display, but little that’s shown is incredibly interesting. . There is a glimpse of a near future that includes commercial flights to the moon, moon pirates (it’s like the Wild Wild West), plenty of life on Mars, and a world that looks to the stars for ideas and innovation. There’s even an Applebee’s on the moon, exactly how Neil Armstrong envisioned it.
Moon pirates engaging in rover chases and shootouts is very cool, but aren’t the focus of the story. Ad Astra is a film about existence, future and present ideas, and the way they shape us. All of that is delivered through Pitt’s engaging performance. Everything the audience experiences happen through Roy’s journey. Some of those moments are visible onscreen and others are implied or left up to interpretation.
There isn’t long monologues about love like we’ve seen in Interstellar or “a ha” moments where the main character realizes what matters to them the most. Every life lesson Ad Astra delivers is done through something that’s happened or has happened to Roy.
Lessons and philosophies aside, Ad Astra is a beautiful film. Every location looks and feels different. The colors are different, sound design, and visuals are all different. From the jaw-dropping opening sequence to the final frame, there isn’t a scene that doesn’t demand to be seen on the biggest IMAX screen.
Ad Astra is a thrilling trip into space piloted by Brad Pitt. It’s a movie about fatherhood and family that’s wrapped in a space drama. It’s not an action packed space thriller but there’s a surprising amount of action and fun. The fascinating world of Ad Astra deserves its own show that details what’s happening on earth and the moon. Ad Astra will wow audiences and keep Brad Pitt’s name in discussions during award season.