Ad Astra

Ad Astra

In Theatres: 
Sep 20, 2019

Ad Astra is more a film about relationships than it is about the voyage of space. It’s a deeply personal and self-reflective story with a singular focus that just so happens to take place across the vast void that is our solar system. Ad Astra is anchored by gorgeous visuals and wonderful cinematography, but it’s the introspective journey of Brad Pitt’s character that really takes the film to the stars and beyond.


Astronaut Roy McBride (Brad Pitt) is the best of the best when it comes to space missions and much of that is because all his life he looked up to his father, legendary astronaut Clifford McBride (Tommy Lee Jones), who was the first man to explore the outer planets of our solar system as part of the Lima Project; a trip to Neptune in search of intelligent life across the known universe. Unfortunately the Lima Project’s last communications were 16 years ago and have been dark ever since, leaving Roy to believe his father dead and the rest of the world believing him a hero. But when a wave of power surges begin to strike the earth, U.S. Space Command receives word that it might be from the lost Lima Project. In the hopes of getting through to Clifford McBride, they decide to send Roy on a top secret mission to Neptune to find the cause and put a stop to the surges by any means possible.


Roy McBride is someone whose entire life has been in the shadow of his father, and Brad Pitt plays the character with a wonderful subtlety that can be easily mistaken for dullness. He’s hyper-focused solely on the mission and doesn’t let emotions ever interfere with the task at hand, as evident by the fact that his heart rate never gets above 90 even in the most stressful situations. As various points throughout the film he has to go through a routine psychological profile to ensure that he is still fit for the mission. He is almost robotic in his responses. His concentration occasionally breaks, like when he learns that his father might be alive, and what makes Pitt’s performance so great is that you can see the internal struggle that is happening just below the surface in him. On the outside he’s calm and collective as usual, but you can see the conflict in his eyes.


Roy is just like his father Clifford, even if he says he isn’t. Both of them sacrificed everything for the good of the mission whether it’s their relationships or their own happiness. As Roy travels closer and closer to his father and the mission’s end goal, more details surrounding his disappearance all those years ago come to light and as a result, Roy begins to question his devotion, both to the mission and his father’s legacy. His heart rate increases, although still not beyond 90, and he begins to make decisions based on emotion and not purely based on what’s best from a logical standpoint. It’s a slow transformation but a key focal point of the film.


Ad Astra isn’t without its faults. The film is gorgeous and there’s so much more of its futuristic depiction of space that’s worth exploring. Because the film is so focused on Pitt’s own personal journey, everything else feels undercooked or simply brushed over. The moon has been commercialized with routine shuttle launches that are more akin to plane rides. It also has a vast wilderness of open land where space pirates raid any unsuspecting rovers. There’s plenty of fascinating material that could have been further explored but unfortunately gets wasted.


Regardless, Ad Astra remains a beautiful film that explores the deep recesses of not only space but also the human condition. Brad Pitt carries the weight of the mission and the film on his shoulders, delivering a subtle yet powerful performance. I advise you to see it in on the biggest screen possible so you can take in every last detail.

Matt Rodriguez
Review by Matt Rodriguez
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