Film Reviews

Ad Astra (dir. Gray)

Like looking out into the abyss, you'll either see something staring back or just see black.

Image: Brad Pitt in Ad Astra © Property of Twentieth Century Fox [Source: IMDB]

★★★★☆

Astronaut Roy McBride undertakes a mission across an unforgiving solar system to uncover the truth about his missing father and his doomed expedition that now, 30 years later, threatens the universe.

Director: James Gray.  Starring: Brad Pitt, Tommy Lee Jones, Donald Sutherland [12A]

Ad Astra has often been compared to many things since its critical reception and the evident thing after watching the film yourself is that all of them are there. In some form Ad Astra is a Frankenstein of Blade Runner, Apocalypse Now and 2001: A Space Odyssey.

The initial reaction might be to think of this as a reason for its dismissal as worthy of your time. But the resulting amalgamation is one of puzzling thought-provoking and meditation of humanity. Ad Astra asks big questions of its audience without really telling them, the direction and writing does a superb job of never making you feel like you’re ingesting something larger than you can chew. Breaking down big thoughts into quaint unusual scenes. But the big thing that drives this past the finish line with perfect charisma and clarity is the performance from Brad Pitt. A career-high for Pitt, with time as the obstacle on if we can tell if the film is worthy of the same amount of merit.

An unusual statement in a review where definitive answers are wanted as to a film’s quality but Ad Astra is a film I’ve been sitting on for some time now, having seen the film weeks ago. Yet I still struggle to process the true gravity of the film. Unlike the biggest comparative picture Apocalypse Now which used past to explore human nature and the human condition among other things. Ad Astra imagines a future, partly tangible and partly fictional, so it’s hard to really weight the issues Ad Astra wants to explore. It can easily come across as a lifeless drone hurtling towards an end with an odd explosion to keep a mainstream audience from falling asleep. But it also realises something about the human psyche and our wanderlust, perhaps the most fitting meditative film in an age where we look more and more up to the stars for answers. Which I lean towards when thinking of the film.

What brings Ad Astra down somewhat outside of its touch and go engagement, oftentimes losing its grasp on an audience looking for answers and finding none. Further weighted down by the violent outbursts in its plot that don’t seem to bare any weight on the narrative or seem needed outside of, again, stopping people drifting. But if you’ve got the stomach for something more slow-burning, in which you yourself have to travel out to the abyss with the main character for answers, where you yourself may not find answers but instead more questions. Then the soundtrack and cinematography are gently cradling you through what might just be one of the best cinematic experiences this year. Ad Astra is like looking out into the abyss, you’ll either see something staring back or just see black.

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A graduate of Media Studies at the University of Aberystwyth, Wales, UK. Occasional writer for Buzz Magazine and a few other online outlets. An utter cinephile who finds himself with strong opinions, often through the lens of cinema or a wide range of dabbled interests. Just wanting to share his opinion with people who care to listen and if not for his own self-reflection.

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