“He was a pioneer. But there was much more to him than that”: Ad Astra Review

Brad Pitt in Ad Astra. Image source: lwlies.com

Alex Donaldson, Contributor.

2019 really has been the year of Brad Pitt. Gaining Oscar buzz for his role in Quentin Tarantino’s Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood, it was only natural that his name would be in the headlines in the build-up for his latest film Ad Astra, a film that, until June, had given us no trailer, leaving fans unsure about what to expect from the film.

Ad Astra is a sci-fi drama directed by James Gray, set in a near future where humanity has colonised the moon and commercialised space travel. A strange power surge threatens the survival of the planet and astronaut Roy McBride embarks on a mission to find his father Clifford (Tommy Lee Jones) at the edge of the solar system but more importantly, to find himself.

Now going into Ad Astra, don’t expect the comedy of …in Hollywood’s Cliff Booth. This is Brad Pitt at his most subtle, his most nuanced. This is Brad Pitt’s film and every scene is designed to completely develop the character of Roy McBride. Every subplot, arguably to the film’s detriment, gives way in order for the focus to remain on him and his journey.

As well as this, don’t expect the film to be overly bombastic. Much like Pitt, this film is subtle and takes its time, stopping in places to ponder on important character moments. This movie would certainly be suited to fans of Damien Chazelle’s First Man (2018) – another film with a subtle lead performance, focusing on the character of Neil Armstrong, rather than the triumphant side of the iconic moon landing.

However, regardless of whether or not you believe the subplots are completely necessary, the main plot is still an intriguing character study exploring a father/son relationship. A relationship that is inherently flawed making it all the more interesting to watch and leaves you thinking about it long after you’ve left the theatre.

The film is accompanied by a score which can be described as both triumphant in places and mellow in others, adding a sense of wonder at times and a sense of reflection to others, working hand in hand with beautiful cinematography which has been compared to Francis Ford Coppola’s Apocalypse Now (1979) – a comparison that can only really be used in praise of the film.

The establishing of this character drama within the setting of space is important yet, in a way, insignificant to the plot.

While each set-piece provides breathtaking visuals, most specifically the opening sequence and a car chase on the moon’s surface. The entire space setting is predominately used to represent this journey that our protagonist is on, in order to emphasise the lengths he is willing to go to in order to know the truth about his father’s mission.

Brad Pitt essentially carries this journey and is more than capable of doing so. It’s safe to say that he will at least be in the conversation when we reach this year’s awards season.

Director: James Gray

Starring: Brad Pitt, Tommy Lee Jones, Donald Sutherland, Ruth Negga

Run Time:  2 hours 3 minutes

Published by The Gown Queen's University Belfast

The Gown has provided respected, quality and independent student journalism from Queen's University, Belfast since its 1955 foundation, by Dr. Richard Herman. Having had an illustrious line of journalists and writers for almost 70 years, that proud history is extremely important to us. The Gown is consistent in its quest to seek and develop the talents of aspiring student writers.

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