Cast: Brad Pitt, Tommy Lee Jones, Ruth Negga, Liv Tyler
Director: James Gray
I’ve thought a lot about Ad Astra since watching it, and I’ve come to the conclusion that it might just be the best sci-fi movie of the decade. With the ability to showcase both the physical and emotional scale of the job of an astronaut, Ad Astra is one of the most brilliant movies to come out this year. With yet another iconic performance by Pitt and some of the best visuals you will ever see, Ad Astra cements itself as a slow yet methodical look into the human mind with the backdrop of how space travel will inevitably work in the future.
The film follows Roy McBride (Pitt), an astronaut at some point in the near future. When a cosmic event causes mass destruction across the world, Roy finds out that his father H. Clifford McBride (Jones) is still alive after disappearing in a mission to Neptune many years ago and may be the source of these events. Roy is then sent out to Neptune to deal with his father’s actions and also has to come with the emotional toll that his job and his issues with his father have on Roy in life. When I first heard what Ad Astra would be like, I heard it would be a mashup of 2001: A Space Odyssey and Apocalypse Now. Thankfully, the film takes the elements that made the previous ones so successful and applies them masterfully in this movie. Specifically, the scale at which these events are shown and the environment they exist in are hauntingly accurate and show us that our place in the universe is very insignificant. When Roy is floating in space, he looks minuscule compared the area around him and it solidifies that we really are just specks of life in the grand scheme of things. When Roy is in the process of preparing to travel out to Neptune, he stops on the Moon we see what commercial space travel will more than likely look like in the future. We imagine that space voyage will be this glamorous and extravagant adventure when it finally becomes accessible to the general public, but realistically it will be excessively overcharged and filled with Dunkin’ Donuts, Subway, and Hudson News the way airports are already inundated with them. This is a harsh outlook of our future, but it’s a real one when you consideration the interconnection of innovation and greed and how one is influenced by the other. Outside of that, Ad Astra would not be nearly as effective if it wasn’t for the leading performance of Pitt. Pitt brilliantly portrays the emotional complexity of a person whose entire existence has been created to live up to the hero status that the world sees as his father, but nobody knows the immense pressure and isolation that this causes for Roy. Pitt’s performance is really where the shades of Apocalypse Now come out as he was given an excellent script to work with and made the absolute most of it. I know Pitt is getting a lot of award buzz for performance in Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, and while that’s much deserved, Pitt’s performance in Ad Astra may be the strongest of his career and should make him a strong contender for a Best Actor nomination. With Pitt’s acting, a scale that is surpassed by few, and a story that makes every one of its 124 minutes count, Ad Astra is easily one of the best sci-fi movies of the decade and a strong contender for best movie of the year.
Overall, movies like Ad Astra are traditionally more of a risk because they don’t have the widespread appeal of a movie like The Martian or Gravity, but what this movie lacks in profit it makes up for in quality. Easily the biggest movie of Gray’s career, he continues to show us what a smart and talented director he is and I hope he can provide us with future hits like this in the future.
Overall Score: 9/10