Ad Astra review – Outer space film is the pits

Brad Pitt in 'Ad Astra'. Picture: 20th Century Fox

The narrative and its execution is so derivative of similar intergalactic adventures, such as ‘Gravity’ and ‘Blade Runner 2049’.

A great deal of hype has surrounded Ad Astra in which Brad Pitt serves as a producer and also its star.

It takes place in outer space and is an endurance test of epic proportions.

We have seen too many films of this ilk and James Gray’s science-fiction film, which takes its title from a Latin epigraph, is a lengthy, often tedious, excursion about an unflappable astronaut Roy McBride (Pitt) searching for his father, Clifford (Tommy Lee Jones), in the outer regions of the universe.

Brad Pitt in ‘Ad Astra’. Picture: 20th Century Fox

They believe Clifford is still alive, existing after a mission called the Lima Project went wrong because of a mysterious electric surge.

It takes much grit and courage for these space cowboys to operate out there alone and this message is strongly conveyed through a myriad of images.

Gray’s film tells us that it’s the near future during a time of “conflict and hope.”

Roy is recruited by Colonel Pruitt (Donald Sutherland) for a mission that will eventually see him arrive at the furthest reaches of the solar system to discover if his father is alive and the source of the surges which threaten life on Earth.

Tommy Lee Jones in ‘Ad Astra’. Picture: 20th Century Fox

What I found disappointing is that the narrative and its execution is so derivative of similar intergalactic adventures, such as Gravity and Blade Runner 2049.

A comparison can possibly be made with the recent re-release of Apocalypse Now, where Roy becomes Willard, who is heading upriver/outer space to find Kurtz/Clifford.

Overall, Ad Astra suffers from a disconnected episodic structure. There is a quick action sequence on the moon and then they are off to Mars. A poor voiceover doesn’t help matters, either.

Donald Sutherland, and Sean Blakemore in ‘Ad Astra’. Picture: 20th Century Fox

Pitt is solid as Roy, and Sutherland and Liv Tyler both have insultingly small roles.

For me, Ad Astra was not quite an out-of-this world experience.


Rating: ★★☆☆☆
Cast: Brad Pitt, Tommy Lee Jones, Liv Tyler, Donald Suthrland, Ruth Negga, John Ortiz.
Director: James Gray

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