“Ad Astra” is a 2019 sci-fi/drama that follows Roy McBride (Brad Pitt), an astronaut who travels across the solar system in search for his long lost father, whose experiments threaten the state of the universe, written and directed by “The Lost City of Z” director, James Gray.
This movie was a complete breath of fresh air for the sci-fi genre. I have not been this blown away by a movie in a while. There was not a single moment in this film that did not grip my attention. One could say all the stars really aligned for this one (pun FULLY intended).
Brad Pitt easily gives one of the best performances of 2019, as his meditative and quietly powerful performance as Roy McBride truly carries this entire film. He can bring the loudest emotions in the quietest scenes. The film, being such a heavy character piece, relies almost entirely on Pitt’s performance. However, he manages to take the role and make it look like it was tailored for him! The other performers did a magnificent job as well, namely Ruth Negga, Donald Sutherland, and Tommy Lee Jones as McBride’s father. Pitt’s performance, however, feels like the twine that ties together an already amazing film.
The script feels incredibly realized, as it’s like a mix of “2001: A Space Odyssey” and “Apocalypse Now.” While McBride’s voice-over narration in the film seems to divide most critics, I believe it is an astonishing use of voice over that calls back to Martin Sheen’s voiceover in “Apocalypse Now.” It perfectly encapsulates the loneliness and demonstrates his mentality perfectly, which helps establish Roy McBride as a complex, yet relatable character. Any introvert can relate when he talks about feeling like he has to put on a smile whenever he’s in public, and that he always seems to be “looking for the exit.” “Ad Astra” does an amazing job of bringing an astronaut right back down to earth.
The movie, along with Brad Pitt, looks absolutely stunning. From the colorless dunes of the moon, to the intense redness of Mars, and the cold and unforgiving void of space, each and every location managed to take my breath away. The visual effects and cinematography combine to create a gorgeous result. One film I could compare it to, in terms of blending effects with cinematography, is 2014’s “Interstellar,” a film with which “Ad Astra” shares a cinematographer: Hoyte Van Hoytema! Hoytema seems to be an expert in conveying space as a beautiful, yet cold and isolating, place.
In the end, “Ad Astra” is a beautiful analysis of the lonely life of an astronaut. I’m sure it will fit perfectly among the many sci-fi classics of this decade, namely “Arrival” and “Interstellar.” It is a beautiful examination of masculinity and the relationship between a father and a son. I wasn’t really aware of the writer/director James Gray before “Ad Astra,” however this movie has certainly put him on my map. The movie is a beautifully constructed character study of a man whose life is dedicated to isolation. This film is all around a superb sci-fi character piece that I would definitely consider one of the best movies of the year.