Updated: Sep 23, 2021
Space: its mysterious nature has been an inspiration to the imagination. While there are many aspects to the sci-fi genre the concept of traveling through space is practically the genre’s bread and butter as it has played a major role in the world of film with movies such as 2001: A Space Odyssey and Interstellar. Despite the variety of adventures through the milky way this concept continues to thrive on the silver screen, and that is certainly evident in the new film Ad Astra. Ad Astra is directed by James Gray who wanted to create a more realistic approach to space travel, and it seems this idea has proven effective as the film has received astounding praise from critics. However could this sci-fi film entice this Film Adventurer? The answer is a surprising yes.
Ad Astra centers on Major Roy McBride (Brad Pitt) who is tasked to find his long lost father (Tommy Lee Jones) after an intergalactic surge causes havoc on Earth and,if not stopped, could destroy the entire solar system. Going into the movie I expected this story to be a space exploration with a sense of mystery to it and that true. However while the mystery of Roy’s father is a beneficial factor for the story it is not its driving element. At its core the story is about Roy and the personal conflict he deals with while traveling through space. While this direction created a contrast in the plot’s themes, this was a good direction as it grounded the story in a way that still work with its concept. The tale behind this sci-fi adventure was refreshing to say the least as its character driven nature gave this space odyssey a dynamic sense of storytelling.
When it came to characters Ad Astra was practically a one man show. Roy was the driving force for the cast and while this can be difficult to pull off the movie succeeded thanks to its strong lead. The conflict in Roy was both engaging as well as relatable, and his progression was very much effective even if could be subtle in delivery. What really worked in this character’s favor was the performance from Brad Pitt. Pitt brought out the character’s complexity as Roy’s emotional detachment actually spoke volumes about what he was dealing with. While the supporting cast was not as prominent as I originally expected that is not say they were ineffective. The likes of Liv Tyler, Ruth Negga, Donald Sutherland and Tommy Lee Jones brought just enough to the cast to keep things flowing even with their limited direction. Tommy Lee Jones was particularly impressive as he was able to do so much with his limited time on screen.
Despite the film’s keen sense of storytelling and characterization, the standout aspect to Ad Astra is no doubt the spectacle behind the sci-fi film. The film’s visuals were simply breathtaking as its practical and cg effects created a world that both realistic and surreal. The cinematography was beneficial in bringing the spectacle to life. The colors used in the film kept true to the sci-fi element while the camerawork was inventive and led to several enticing moments. Equally as impressive was the score by Max Ritcher. Not only was the music perfect for the film but its unique execution made this score one of the best soundtracks that I have heard all year.
Ad Astra was a surprising venture as what looked like a typical sci-fi film ended up being a unique entry for the genre. While the story and characters could have had more merit to them, both aspects made up for their shortcomings thanks to the keen storytelling and strong performance by Brad Pitt. Rounding things out for the movie was its sense of spectacle as the astonishing effects made this movie a visual experience that had me hooked from beginning to end. Through its stellar delivery and practical direction Ad Astra reaches for the stars and it not only ends up being a one a kind sci-fi film, but it is undoubtedly one of the best films of 2019.