For awhile, it seemed like James Gray’s Ad Astra was never going to see the light of day. Nevertheless, it has arrived after countless delays, edits, and long stretches of silence. Luckily for us, the wait was unbelievably worth it, because Ad Astra is a triumph.
James Gray, a director who has seemingly found his voice as a champion of old-school style dramas, follows in the footsteps of Stanley Kubrick, Alfonso Cuaron, and Christopher Nolan with this space odyssey, with thrilling results. Every frame of Ad Astra feels calculated and ripe for dissection, and Gray guides his film with confidence. The film moves along at a steady clip, while simultaneously taking the time to linger on little details to properly build the world. The result is sweeping and lyrical science fiction epic in the form of a character study with a voice of its own. This is a film to get lost in.
Ad Astra follows astronaut Roy McBride (Brad Pitt) as he embarks on a top-secret mission to track down his long-lost father, Clifford McBride (Tommy Lee Jones), who was seemingly lost in space almost two decades prior to the film’s start. What begins as a simple search mission evolves into something else entirely, becoming a hybrid of sorts between Apocalypse Now and Gravity. The story takes Roy to some fascinating, dangerous, and challenging places both literally and emotionally, resulting in a plot that is constantly reeling the audience in. Featuring equally intense moments of action and introspection, Ad Astra has something for everyone.
ACTING | CHARACTERS | DIALOGUE:
I’ll say this up front: Brad Pitt gives quite possibly the best performance of his career in this film. At any given time, he has to convey bravery, intelligence, anger, and insecurity at the same time, and Pitt’s ability to pull it off consistently is something to behold. His depiction of Roy anchors this film, and it’s destined to be one of sci-fi’s great performances. Tommy Lee Jones is just as effective in an elusive, Colonel Kurtz-type role as Roy’s long lost father. Ruth Negga is memorable in an underused role, bringing humanity to a few crucial scenes. Basically, the cast is firing on all cylinders here, and they bolster an already towering film.
VISUAL EFFECTS | MAKEUP | DESIGN:
MUSIC | SCORE | SOUND DESIGN:
The silence of space never sounded so loud. The design of this film elevates moments of tension perfectly and is balanced very well with the score. Speaking of, Max Richter has created a spacious, melancholy, and memorable score that always compliments what is onscreen. Undoubtedly one of the year’s best.
From the cold surfaces of the moon to the rings of Neptune, Ad Astra consistently dazzles with its visuals. This movie should be seen on the biggest screen possible, because its visual effects and design are brilliant. It may be set in the near future and beyond our atmosphere, but it is never anything less than believable. We have been given a beautifully rendered film with effects that will leave your jaw on the floor.
If you are looking for a space epic on the level of Interstellar, you’re going to leave Ad Astra disappointed. However, if you are patient with the film’s storytelling and surrender to the journey, you will be rewarded with one of the most beautiful, haunting, and introspective films in recent years. Masterfully acted, directed, shot, and composed, Ad Astra is a towering achievement in science fiction.