Brad Pitt reminds us once again that he is indeed our greatest movie star. Ad Astra is a thing of beauty that literally shines under every colour of the rainbow.
Space, a vast emptiness that consumes you the further you explore it. The deeper you voyage into space, the darker it becomes. You are diving into darkness, and at some point, there’s no turning back. Space can very much be compared to loneliness and feeling vulnerable. When we are alone darkness can consume us, whether it’s because we are afraid to love or to be loved. For Brad Pitts Roy McBride his darkness stems from becoming his father and the fear and emptiness he feels inside. H. Clifford McBride (Tommy Lee Jones) once heralded has the pioneer in deep space travel is now at the centre of a controversy that could threaten our entire existence. Here’s the kicker, Roy has thought his father has been dead for nearly two decades, so when he’s recruited to go on one of the most dangerous space expeditions ever attempted by man, Roy, who usually is calm as a cucumber, feels for the first time in his life, emotion.
Isolation, it’s at the forefront of this epic science fiction tale. When you spend the majority of your time, miles above the earth surface, you tend to become isolated, just not from others, but from your own self-being. Roy is a man of peace, he enjoys his solitude, he is known for having a historic heart-rate, which basically means that this man doesn’t crack. Enter the opening of the film, as we watch Roy on a space station, high above the earth, doing some low key maintenance, when suddenly all hell breaks loose, and he is free-falling towards the surface, spinning out of control, and still nothing, no beats higher than 88 per minute. One thing director James Gray explores so well, is the meaning of fear. Roy is petrified to open himself to anyone else than fall from his death aboard a space station. Even when staring death in the face, during a sequence that felt much like Mad Max on the Moon, which was one of the highlights of the movie. Who knew that in the near future we would have space pirates on the Moon, chasing down a landrover for spare parts.
Here begins our mesmerizing journey to the far reaches out outer space. It’s a long trip, Earth to the Moon, to Mars and finally to Neptune. I say this because, the thing that stuck out the most from my experience while watching Ad Astra, was the rich colors each unique destination had to offer. Like each stop along this hypnotic trip was a character of their own. The Earth, so full of life, light and rich and chock-full of energy. The Moon dark and gloomy, full of grey and never-ending darkness. Mars, the Red Sun, so much orange and red, a place of pent up anger, mystery, a new beginning. Finally the last stop, Neptune, so much blue, like a vast open ocean, that seems all incasing.
Living in one’s shadow can always be intimidating and sometimes overbearing. Especially when that shadow happens to belong to the greatest living astronaut the world as ever seen. Roy McBride certainly has big shoes to fill, until he realizes that maybe everything he knew about his father wasn’t as clear and cut. Much like his father Roy enjoys solitude, he doesn’t want to show any emotion, he believes that letting people in can only make his job murkier. Ad Astra doesn’t lack emotion, even if there are long stretches of silence or lack of dialogue. For a movie that spans just shy of 2 hours and 20 minutes, the script, on the other hand, is pretty short. One of the main theme’s of this movie is about isolation, and how it can affect those around you. Pitts character might not showcase every single little emotion that runs through his body, but in a scene, that deals with him and a microphone, that’s all the emotion you need to see. Or the subtle facial expression, or single tear shed, speaks a thousand words. Something that no amount of dialogue could produce and that is simply the beauty of this film.
A movie like Ad Astra doesn’t get made unless it has a rockstar like Pitt in the driver’s seat. I feel like this has been a giant year for the actor, and I feel uneasy calling it a “come back.” Because Brad Pitt hasn’t really ever gone anyway, he just has had his focus elsewhere. Being at the forefront of two ginormous movies this year has propelled him back into the limelight and reminded us all why he is our greatest living movie star. The world has been watching Pitt in movies for nearly four decades now, and he is doing things in this movie, that he’s never done before. There in itself is the reason why you go sit in a theatre and watch Ad Astra, he’s been in our lives long enough, that every time you get a chance to see him act, you go. When it’s in a space epic, by a great film-maker, even better.
I really enjoyed this film, because I love watching masters of their craft, perform at the highest level, like LeBron James in a Game 7, or Tiger on the 18th hole at The Masters. These are events that shouldn’t be missed because once they are gone, there’s no replacing such things.
Ad Astra = 90/100