Ad Astra (2019)

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8.5 Overall Score
Story: 8/10
Acting: 9/10
Visuals: 9/10

Thinking movie about the boundaries of man and what is important to him/her

Have some issues with the film's climatic scene

Movie Info

Movie Name: Ad Astra

Studio: New Regency Pictures

Genre(s): Sci-Fi/Fantasy/Action/Adventure/Drama

Release Date(s):  August 29, 2019 (Venice Film Festival)/September 20, 2019 (US)

MPAA Rating: PG-13

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The Man Who Fell to Earth

The world and its ever-expanding space program is threatened by power surges that have a strange unknown origin. Major Roy McBride (Brad Pitt) finds himself contacted for a secret mission to the stars to investigate the Lima Project that could be responsible for the danger. McBride’s father H. Clifford McBride (Tommy Lee Jones) might be alive, and journeying through space, Roy could have the confrontation he’s grown up dreaming about.

Written and directed by James Gray (with additional scripting by Ethan Gross), Ad Astra is a science-fiction space drama. The film premiered at the Venice Film Festival and was released to mostly positive reviews from critics.  It received an Academy Award nomination for Best Sound Mixing.

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It’s Moon Patrol meets Road Warrior

There is something about a big space epic. Much like old Westerns, space feels like a lawless and lonely place and Ad Astra (short for Per Aspera Ad Astra…aka Through the hardships to the Stars) capitalizes on this feeling that the space frontier is the wild and unknown west. Due to the story’s set-up some ******spoiler alerts****** exist for the rest of the review.

Ad Astra feels like a story you have seen before. It noticeably (and admittedly) borrows from both 2001, A Space Odyssey and Heart of Darkness. Both stories feature a character venturing into the unknown and seeing what effect that leaving the civilized world can have on a person. Pitt’s character finds himself going mad and faces people pushed more and more to the edge as he heads from Earth. It culminates in his father who faces madness in the quest to find something more to life. While the madness claims his father, Pitt’s character “stares into the heart of darkness” and is able to come back to Earth…the thing he had been running from is once again a comfort. It is a pretty classic story, but it is well done and feels fresh with the setting.

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The episode of Super Friends where Gleek goes nuts

Brad Pitt really can be commended for the role. His performance feels a bit like the performance of Sean Penn in The Tree of Life (which Brad Pitt) costarred with a lot of voice over work and emotion without emoting. It can also is comparable to Martin Sheen’s performance in the Heart of Darkness adaptation Apocalypse Now (but with more restrained emotions). Like other adaptations of the story, the character meets other characters along the way and the film has a nice smart cast including Donald Sutherland, Ruth Negga, and Liv Tyler in supporting roles. Tommy Lee Jones also is great in his performance of a man pushed over the edge of logic.

James Gray set out to make a very realistic space film, and it looks fantastic. I love scenes like the moon buggy battle and the tech of the space flight. Despite this, I feel that it really took a lot of liberties especially near the end. Like The Martian and Gravity, the idea of being able to hit a target in space (especially after going through a ring of a planet) is crazy. Pitt’s character would probably be blown apart by the rocks, and if he could hit the tiny little ship in the vastness of space, he would have broken every bone in his body it looks like by how fast he was going…it takes away from story and it feels like it could have been done with less theatrics.

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Man, Dad…I came all the way up here to see you…and this is the thanks I get?

Ad Astra is an interesting movie. It has concepts and ideas about life and what is important and is a “thinky” movie opposed to a lot of stuff out there. The space setting is almost incidental and unimportant because the basic core of the movie is about human nature and the desire to go further and faster. Like a lot of good movies that are about concepts, it is imperfect, but the imperfect nature of this type of film makes it more interesting than an average movie that has no flaws…to the stars!

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Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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