Ad Astra

by Hans A. Carpenter

Release Date: September 20

MPAA: PG-13

Director: James Gray

Starring: Brad Pitt, Tommy Lee Jones, and Ruth Nega

Mister Marquee Says: Stoicism in Space

Number: 4.5/5

Roy McBride (Brad Pitt) is a decorated astronaut and the son of a space pioneer Clifford McBride (Tommy Lee Jones) who went missing years ago on a deep space mission. When a mysterious power surge that threatens Earth is traced to what appears to be Clifford’s ship, Roy is sent on a mission to find his father and neutralize the threat.

Ad Astra, while not perfect scientifically by any stretch, does a really good job of trying to make an exciting, but plausible, space adventure. It feels like a quiet Apocalypse Now in space. There are some unbelievable set pieces and action sequences (like Brad Pitt free falling off of a high atmosphere antenna) that will take your breath away faster than the vacuum of space. Ad Astra is by no means bombastic like so many big budget space movies. The cinematography and action sequences are excellent, but the real glue that holds this movie together is Brad Pitt. His performance is one of the best in a long, storied career.

Roy McBride is constantly probed by Space Com’s psych evaluations after every mission. These are high stress missions that involve stuff like FALLING OUT OF THE SKY. McBride is well known for his calmness under pressure and his low resting heart rate. Under the surface, we have a man going through a painful divorce who has issues with his missing hero father. These feelings, and any feelings at all, are compartmentalized by McBride, effectively hidden just below a calm surface.

Playing a character who is all about hiding his emotions under a facade of stoicism is no easy feat. Pitt somehow manages to convey great emotion without outwardly emoting, instead telling volumes about this character through the subtlest of expressions. It’s marvelous. My one real complaint is an ending that doesn’t quite stick the landing, and not for the reasons some may think. Ad Astra is definitely a worthy addition to the real space genre and a movie that is at once quiet and intimate, and vast and enthralling.

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