The slow-moving space poem that is Ad Astra is more heart of darknessy than the sci-fi action promised in the trailers. The near-future film is big on introspection and beautiful shots of the vast expanse of space and the planets of our solar system. It’s light on logic, unfortunately, and suffers under a tedious and maudlin voice-over that makes even the most beautiful scenes feel exhausting. I left the theater wanting to watch The Martian or Gravity because it piqued my interest in a space travel story without actually delivering a good one.
Brad Pitt is Roy McBride, an astronaut that is the son of another famed astronaut, Cliff McBride (Tommy Lee Jones) who supposedly died on a mission to the edges of our solar system, which he began when Roy was still a teenager. When shock waves from beyond Neptune start fucking with power on earth, the government enlists Roy’s aid to try to make contact with his dad, who might be the source of the pulses. The mission takes Roy from the moon, to mars, and beyond where he bounces through an incoherent mish-mash of scenes that don’t feel connected to the story as a whole. Pitt, with his weathered but handsome face and world-weary eyes, is decent as the even-keeled Roy, a performance albeit undermined by that dry voice-over that detracts from every scene its shoved into. A bevy of actors-Ruth Negga, Donald Sutherland, Kimberly Elise, Sean Blakemore-pop in for small cameos that go nowhere and all seem to promise something more interesting that never gets delivered on.
Not to say I hated the movie. I didn’t. There’s a lot to like. For one, the movie looks gorgeous. The opening sequence that shifts from the upper atmosphere to the earth below, is thrilling. There are moments throughout that look glorious captured on IMAX. Pitt carries the film ably, even if co-writer-director James Gray didn’t have enough faith to let him convey the character properly without the overly explicit VO. I was stoked for Sutherland, but his appearance proved to be little more than a cameo. Tommy Lee Jones also did well with a role that could’ve gone poorly in lesser hands. The visual flair can only carry the movie so far and ultimately I was left cold by the film.
My Grade – C