Ad Astra Review

Stunning, eerie and always just a bit out of reach, James Gray’s “Ad Astra” is a fascinating and visceral take on the space odyssey sub-genre. Brad Pitt plays Roy McBride, a veteran astronaut who is summoned by the U.S. government and asked to go on a mission: to return to outer space and attempt to contact his missing father, Clifford (Tommy Lee Jones). Clifford disappeared on a space mission 16 years ago and was presumed dead, but now officials have uncovered evidence that he might still be alive — and might be connected to a series of radioactive surges from the outer reaches of space that have threatened life on Earth, potentially causing, as the trailer ominously warns, “a crisis of unknown magnitude.”

The cinematography, by Hoyte Van Hoytema (whose elegant body of work includes “Dunkirk,” “Spectre” and, not surprisingly, "Interstellar", a tonal sibling to this film), is restrained and often beautiful. Gray keeps the mood sombre, serious and hypnotic throughout, with an insistently throbbing soundtrack by Max Richter contrasting with that curiously flat blue silence of space.

And at the centre is Pitt, brooding and quiet, giving us the sense of a man carefully uncovering a trauma of his lost father that he’d prefer to leave in the dark. It’s a thoughtful, interesting performance, in a movie full of moments that resonate — but by the movie’s end, “Ad Astra” doesn’t add up to quite as much as you’d like it to. An odd combination of space adventure, psychological thriller and moody tone poem, it stops just short of bedazzlement; instead “Ad Astra,” like an astronaut lost in space, slowly and majestically floats away from the potential it could have reached.

 Masters of Cinema Rating - 4 Stars 

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