Ad Astra follows astronaut Roy McBride (Pitt) as he journeys into the cosmos in search of his long lost father, played by Tommy Lee Jones. To accomplish that mission, Roy must overcome internal and external forces in a not too distant future where space-travel is treated as a standard commercial flight– and having a Subway sandwich on the moon is commonplace.
The movie was shot by excellent Swiss cinematographer Hoyte Van Hoytema, a frequent collaborator of Chris Nolan, and it’s certainly one of the best looking movies I’ve seen in a long time. Writer-director James Gray’s handling of the film is masterful. The action sequences are highly intense and enthralling, while quieter scenes capture the suppressive and claustrophobic nature of space. With a budget estimated at $85 Million, it’s by far the largest production Gray’s been a part of, yet he rises to the occasion. Pitt’s clearly a fan– his production company, Plan B, produced Gray’s 2016 biopic The Lost City of Z. In fact, Pitt was originally slated to play the lead in Lost City but bowed out to star in another “Z” titled production, World War Z.
Pitt’s performance in Ad Astra is tastefully subdued and nuanced. Playing a man trained to mask emotions, Pitt manages to display the briefest flashes of vulnerability through his eyes and facial-tics. It’s a role sure to gain Oscar-buzz this fall and will be remembered as one of Pitt’s finest hours.
Ad Astra presents thought-provoking questions about fatherhood, masculinity, human-detachment, and man’s unquenchable thirst for knowledge. It’s got a blockbuster-budget but the heart of an indie-film. Ad Astra is a rare original gem in an industry oversaturated with sequels and franchises and well worth your time.