Pitt takes an emotionally-packed Interstellar journey to save humanity.
Yes, I’ve seen the trailers for “Ad Astra,” a Sci-Fi entry from writer/director James Gray. But I haven’t paid fully attention to them, and so I was left with anticipation on what direction the movie will head in. My grandfather undergoes a lesson that even if you don’t watch previews, you can still go and be surprised by the outcome of it all.
In this case, it questions about whether mankind will prevail, whether or not there are villains in the story, and how the main protagonist will make sense of it all.
That main protagonist would be Major Roy McBride (Brad Pitt), an astronaut, who survives a space antenna accident, caused by a solar power surge. His superiors at NASA inform him that his father-the famous Clifford McBride (Tommy Lee Jones)-who was lost for many years, was working on a project-searching for the possibility of intelligent life in the Solar System. What’s he’s experimenting on was the cause of the surge, and if it isn’t handle properly, all life would cease to exist.
So, humanity rests in his hands.
Roy has grown distant from his father, because of how he left him and his mother at the age of 16, and disappeared over a decade later. He also struggles to carry on the relationship with his estranged wife (Liv Tyler). And he spends most of the movie narrating and pondering about his agony and emotions. What is he up against? Is his father the good guy or the bad guy? And how can he survive it all? The rest is up to him.
The cast also includes minor roles from Donald Sutherland as Clifford’s old partner, who was originally set to keep an eye on Roy, until he leaves the rest of the mission in his hands; and Ruth Negga (“Loving”) as a space facility director on Mars, who knows something about Clifford’s actions.
It took me a while to understand the true nature of it all, but “Ad Astra” takes risks and succeeds in the vein of “2001: A Space Odyssey” and “Interstellar.” The emotional weight is levied on Brad Pitt, who also produces this movie, and really transforms into his character. He’s full of regrets, questions, and tensions; and he’s able to withstand the challenges along the way.
The movie is also a visual wonder. It’s said to take place in the near future, where spaceships act like somewhat airplanes with the attendants and treatments, and the Moon is basically part research facility-part tourist ground. Once we get there, it looks like a mall with Subway and the Vegas Vic in the background.
But that’s not the best part.
The planet where the project is being developed is on Neptune. This happens to feature some of the best shots of the blue planet I’ve ever seen in movies. Come to think of it, I don’t know if I ever seen a film set near Neptune. Nonetheless, I was dazzled by the effects and visuals, which brought it to life.
Kudos to James Gray, co-writer Ethan Gross, and cinematographer Hoyte van Hoytema (“Dunkirk,” “Interstellar”) for guiding Brad Pitt on the right path, and for making “Ad Astra” provocative, challenging, and wondrous.