When Brad Pitt begins Ad Astra in a power surge free fall, I knew I was about to be stressed out for the next few hours! What didn’t stress me out was the fact that a multicultural cast was at the forefront – where women possessed keys roles of power as Captains and Sergeants . All of it was a much welcomed change, as was the fact that this is not your typical space film. It’s a film that highlights the ugly part of being involved with the space program, the power struggles, the mental duress and Daddy issues that plague Roy McBride (Brad Pitt).
Clifford McBride (Tommy Lee Jones) was one of the most decorated officers in the space program, making history as the first to land on Jupiter and Saturn. 30 years ago, Clifford was assigned to the Lima Project when mysteriously goes off the grid. Now, Roy has not only been assigned to locate his Dad, but has orders to discover what’s happening with the project and to neutralize his father if necessary.
Needless to say, there’s been a plethora of space films (The Martian, Interstellar, Gravity, First Man, Apollo 11) mostly dealing with characters floating in space or inside a capsule. Unless coming from a biopic angle, we rarely have back story on the characters who almost certainly perish in space at some point. Ad Astra flips the script and makes this film about a man who suffers the sins of the father. Watching this film in a Dolby sound theatre is a necessity, as it reverberates every lift and blast off to the full extent. Hoyte Van Hoytema’s cinematography coupled with the masterful direction of James Gray enhance performances by a stellar cast led by Tommy Lee Jones and Brad Pitt.
Pitt’s performance is nuanced and purposely stoic giving me remnants of his character Joe from Meet Joe Black. But, it is the manner in which he navigates his mental state while conquering and confronting the most intense relationship of his life – the one he has with himself. Tommy Lee Jones always inhabits a strong command of the screen regardless of what role he’s in. But, Clifford McBride. Donald Sutherland is a sly cat who ate the canary kind of dude making you watch him with mostly one eye open.
Produced by 20th Century Fox, Ad Astra is cinematic beauty at its best and totally worth the time and the ticket.