Ad Astra (12A)

A mission to save Earth from certain demise shows astronaut Roy McBride exactly what humanity is capable of.

Set in the near future, space travel is now the norm. Virgin Atlantic are carrying flights to the Moon and a potential trip to Mars is responded to with a shrug of the shoulders. What still mystifies man, however, is the continual search for life beyond Earth. With no response yet, they’re still adamant it’s only a matter of time. They’re determined to connect with someone, or something.

After a series of power surges fuelled by anti-matter threaten life on Earth, astronaut Roy McBride (Brad Pitt) undertakes a daring mission across an unforgiving solar system in an attempt to make contact with his missing father and the Lima Project, a doomed expedition to the edge of space in an effort to end the search for other forms of life.

What transpires is less a thrill a minute action flick but a character-driven drama that tackles both the biggest questions in our minds about life beyond our planet but also the most human emotions of connection, family and purpose.

Ad Astra is most certainly a slow burner, intent to hang on those moments of reflection, equally helped by Roy’s voiceover, something of a captain’s log as we’re bought along for the ride, both physically and emotionally, on this dangerous voyage.

While not your typical popcorn flick, Ad Astra is absolutely a film to see on the big screen. With imagery that rivals Roger Deakins, Cinematographer Hoyte van Hoytema creates a spectacle that’s not only feels close and intimate when needed but vast and beautiful. The colour palette of images is a joy to behold. Coupled with this is a score by Max Richter that’s equally haunting and yet profound. It hangs in the air as Roy McBride considers his fate both as an astronaut and a man. It’s never over-powering, simply creating a soundscape, mood and tone.

As a film, Ad Astra rests very much on the shoulders of Brad Pitt. There aren’t many shoulders, I think, that could handle such a role and it’s lucky for us all that Pitt’s shoulders handle the weight with ease. Could Pitt earn an Oscar nomination? He’s certainly in the discussion for me. As a character, Roy is assertive and driven, yet damaged and longing. Pitt manages to capture it all with subtly and the poise of a veteran actor at the top of his craft.

Ad Astra may not be for everyone. It’s a little drawn out and may pose questions rather than answers to some. If this is for you, however, you’ll be rewarded with a powerful and thought-provoking drama that somehow feels both otherworldly in its solar exploration but also deeply personal and human.

In a quest for answers and purpose, man may go to extraordinary lengths but at what cost? As 2019 rumbles on and the much hyped Awards films near release, Ad Astra has already started that conversation and deservedly so.

By Jordan Barrett

★★★★☆

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