Ad Astra is a gorgeous and emotional journey that should be seen on as big a screen as possible.
Score: 4 / 5
Ad Astra, in Latin that means to the stars. It’s a fitting title for a movie about space, and the distance one would go looking for closure, for that’s exactly what Ad Astra is all about. This is a heady introspective sci-fi movie that’s just as interested in the journey of Brad Pitt’s Roy McBride’s mental state as it is about the journey of one man traveling our solar system to save humanity. What you should understand going into this movie is that this isn’t your action blockbuster in space, it’s about that exploration of emotional pain and the exploration of space in a much closer to reality take than something like Star Trek or Star Wars.
Brad Pitt has been having a great year with Once Upon a Time in Hollywood and now Ad Astra. Pitt’s McBride is a broken man. Emotionally closed off because of his father’s abandonment. This struggle to come to terms with this fact and that his father was no hero to him is the major driving force in the movie. Saving Earth? That is what draws McBride in, but it’s not what keeps him going. Pitt does a great job capturing that conflicted man still dealing with childhood trauma quite well. Pitt’s performance works so well for this movie that I actually was okay with voice over. Something I’m typically not a fan of. But it fits with this movie, it truly feels like we are in the head of this accomplished astronaut that deep inside is empty.
Moving past performance the other star of this movie is the visuals. Cinematographer Hoyte Van Hoytema and the visual effects team give us beautiful shots filled with a future of space technology that doesn’t feel that far from what we could see in the next 100 years. So many shots felt like they could easily be paintings, not just because of their beauty, but because they capture an emotional story beat. I could easily see a coffee table book filled with stills from what’s on display in this movie. The final piece to this making this movie work as a deep journey into space is the score by Max Richter. It’s both haunting and moving at the same time giving this movie the right tone at every turn.
The thing that could and likely did turn some viewers off is the pacing and very fact that this movie is so invested in the mental journey of McBride. This movie sits with the quieter moments. It dwells on things. It’s a slower paced journey. It’s also solitary for many parts of the movie, but to me it fits and makes sense. This is a journey for this one man to find peace within himself, and it was something he had to do on his own.
By the time this movie ended, I felt I was part of an experience. It felt heavy and reflective. It made me think and ponder. I left with images of the beautiful shots in the movie. If that sounds like something you’d enjoy, then you should not go to the stars but to a movie theater and see this gorgeous movie on a massive screen.