The Reel Review
When a 30-year-old space expedition suddenly threatens to destroy the entire universe, astronaut Roy McBride (Brad Pitt) undertakes a daunting, Odyssean mission across the solar system to find his famous astronaut father (Tommy Lee Jones), uncover the truth and save all of humanity.
With its look at the harsh psychological toll of space travel set amidst stunning, stark visuals, co-writer/director James Gray (The Lost City of Z) achieves his goal of making Ad Astra one of the more realistic depictions of space travel in recent memory. And with Pitt, he has crafted a cerebral ode to men with daddy issues.
The problem is that, at the center of this gorgeously filmed, beautifully scored film, is a epically slow-moving story dripping with symbolism that just never seems to fully take flight. (Natasha Lyonne’s cameo at the check-in desk on Mars is pretty wacky too.) While some will appreciate Ad Astra’s insightful human drama, most will find Pitt’s understated, stoic delivery (hey, he’s damaged from a lifetime of abandonment issues!) about as exciting as watching paint dry. But it sure is pretty.
• Ad Astra is the third attempt at a director/actor collaboration between James Gray and Brad Pitt. The first was a failed attempt to adapt the 2009 spy novel The Gray Man, and the second was 2016’s The Lost City of Z, which Pitt dropped out of (but remained an executive producer) due to scheduling conflicts.
• Director James Gray says the eerie sound that plays repeatedly in the opening shots is an altered, sped-up recording of Tommy Lee Jones saying “I love you, my son.”
• Ad Astra also is a reunion of sorts for Tommy Lee Jones, Donald Sutherland and Loren Dean, who previously appeared in the 2000 sci-fi thriller, Space Cowboys.