[SPOILER ALERT: If you’re interested in watching this film, bookmark this for later.]
If you loved Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey or Alfonso Cuarón’s Gravity, you will feel right at home in Ad Astra’s universe, imaginatively created by its director-cowriter, James Gray. The film’s title is taken from a popular Latin phrase “ad astra per aspera”–meaning “to the stars through hardships”–and that is exactly the trajectory Brad Pitt, as astronaut Major Roy McBride, is suddenly and violently thrust into.
Like Kubrick and Cuarón, James Gray defines outer space as sterile and the people in its midst cold and unresponsive–almost robotic. There seems to be no need for any emotion or original thought in the ideal astronaut candidate. In fact, those qualities would be viewed as character flaws that would inevitably ground an astronaut from the next highly coveted mission into space.
With an impressive heart rate that has never been measured above 80 BPM (beats per minute) despite several near-death experiences on the job and his marriage and personal life crumbling around him, Roy McBride is the ideal astronaut. He has nothing to stand in the way of taking on the dangerous and mysterious mission to the outer edges of the solar system in the hopes of finding his legendary astronaut father, Clifford McBride.
Played to the hilt by a grizzled Tommy Lee Jones, Clifford has been lost in space for 30 years and long thought dead after heading up an exploratory project into deep space. Not only is Clifford alive, but the once heroic space pioneer has gone rogue and is proving to be an imminent threat to the existence of planet earth.
Set in the near future, the now mad genius Clifford has created a violent electrical storm that has done massive damage to the International Space Antenna and is growing with increasing speed and intensity as it heads menacingly towards Earth. As his only child, Roy is asked by a highly classified group of space personnel to make vocal contact with his maniacal father. Once his father responds to the appeal made by his son, Roy begins an adventure that takes him into the vast unknown–deep into both space and his own troubled psyche–with danger lurking at each step of his journey.
While some may consider Ad Astra’s plot a bit slow, others will find it exhilarating. The acting is excellent with both Brad Pitt and Tommy Lee Jones doing some of their top work to date, and James Gray does a spectacular job of creating a deep space that is as awesome as it is disturbing. Buckle up for a surefire wild ride!