Directed by: James Gray – Starring: Brad Pitt, Tommy Lee Jones, Ruth Negga, Liv Tyler, Donald Sutherland
Ad Astra means To The Stars, so the clue really is in the title here. Brad Pitt plays astronaut, Roy McBride, who is sent to Neptune to destroy an experiment that has been causing fatalities on earth. Plot twist/spoiler alert – the experiment is being run by his supposedly dead father, Clifford (Jones) and so Roy is forced to confront facts about his own life while trying to save the planet.
If this all sounds very philosophical, that’s because it is. While the trailer makes this look extremely exciting, it is actually extremely withdrawn and – dare I say it – drawn out. I very much felt that this was trying to channel the likes of Solaris and Gravity, and that it felt it needed to take its time in order to get its philosophical message across.
Therefore we have two hours of Brad Pitt pondering the meaning of life, and lamenting his past choices. There is one brief interjection, when a distress call leads him to a ship where simians are rampaging. But this actually serves very little purpose to the plot, and is quickly forgotten about, as he goes back to contemplating possibly seeing his father for the first time in years.
The cinematography is wonderful as you would expect – and again, definitely takes inspiration from the aforementioned films, and this is indeed a visual delight. Performance-wise though, so many talents are wasted.
Ruth Negga and Natasha Lyonne appear so briefly you might not even realise that they are in the film. Meanwhile, Pitt seems to be channelling Elizabeth Moss in The Handmaids Tale, brooding at the camera, while his voiceover indicates what he is thinking. To be fair, he gives a good performance. But it’s just a LOT of brooding over two hours.
This film is all about its underlying messages, rather than what is happening on the screen. They actually could have easily cut 30 minutes from the running-time, without compromising their philosophy and metaphors.
I would say don’t go and see this film when you are tired. It trots along so leisurely you are likely to find yourself dropping off. It is the kind of film that demands focus and attention. It is also the kind of movie that takes a lot of post-viewing processing. It won’t be everyone’s cup of tea, but what it’s trying to do, it does well.
In Cinemas Now! Trailer below: