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Ad Astra review – out of this world | reviews, news & interviews

Ad Astra review – out of this world

Ad Astra review – out of this world

Brad Pitt is the astronaut whose mission is to save the solar system – from his dad

Existential man: Brad Pitt in Ad Astra

There have been a number of excellent science fiction films of late – GravityThe MartianAnnihilation among them. But Ad Astra may be the most complete and profound addition to the genre since 2001: A Space Odyssey

Kubrick’s masterwork has set the bar for 50 years now and its proposition – from prehistoric ape to star child – remains in a league of its own for imaginative bravura. So it’s striking to what extent the new film, directed by indie stalwart James Gray and starring a scintillating Brad Pitt, has similar ambitions and narrative trajectory as it follows one man’s existential journey into deep space. 

So in some respects it feels like an extension of the conversation about mankind’s place in the universe. At the same time, the ride is far more exciting – and the conclusion quite different – than Kubrick’s.

Pitt is Major Roy McBride, an astronaut in the near future. An introverted loner, more comfortable in space than on terra firma, he’s a physical marvel whose Zen-like calm in a crisis conceals personal demons that slowly emerge during his next mission. 

A series of electrical storms, known as The Surge, is devastating Earth. The source is identified as being in Neptune’s orbit, where it is believed a rogue scientist, thought long dead, is meddling with powers that could destroy the entire solar system – ironic, given that his failed project was to find intelligent life. That man is Clifford McBride (Tommy Lee Jones). Roy is sent into space to deal with dad. 

His journey takes him first to the Moon, then Mars, then Neptune, each leg involving life-or-death drama – a pirate ambush, murderous space apes, madness. Roy is undeterred. And like its central character, the film itself is measured, methodical, moving ever forwards. While the space travel aesthetic is one of unfussy functionality, its cinematography is sublime – from the gold of astronauts’ helmets against the grey of the lunar surface, to an extraordinary underwater journey beneath Mars, to asteroids crashing around Neptune.

Jones, Donald Sutherland and Ruth Negga all provide classy support, but it’s Pitt who’s at the heart of this thoughtful, spellbinding film. Hot on the heels of his charismatic stunt man in Once Upon A Time in… Hollywood, the actor gives a masterclass in minimalist yet highly emotive acting, playing a man travelling billions of miles to find meaning to his life.

 

BRAD PITT’S BIG MOMENTS

Brad Pitt in The Big ShortFury. David Ayer and Brad Pitt take the war film by the scruff of the neck

Inglorious Basterds. Pitt is gloriously absurd in Tarantino WW2 alternative history

Killing Them Softly. Brad Pitt cleans up an almighty mess in Andrew Dominik’s high-calibre crime ensemble

Moneyball. How Billy Beane created a revolution in Major League baseball

The Big Short. Pitt’s on the money as director Adam McKay successfully makes a drama out of a crisis

The Counsellor. Ridley Scott ensemble thriller is nasty, brutish and short or mysterious, upsetting and alluring

The Tree of Life. Terrence Malick’s elliptical epic leads us through time, space and one family’s story

PLUS ONE TURKEY

World War Z. It's World War with a Zee as Brad Pitt battles the undead and a zombie script

While the space travel aesthetic is one of unfussy functionality, its cinematography is sublime

rating

Editor Rating: 
5
Average: 5 (1 vote)

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