Ad Astra

A futuristic space movie with top visuals

If you lik your space odysseys brimming with formula-filled blackboards and quantum mechanics, consider this a trigger warning: Ad Astra is not that kind of sci-fi. Unlike 2001: A Space Odyssey or Interstellar, two obvious points of parallel, there’s no Arthur C Clarke or Kip Thorne behind the scenes to bring Nobel-worthy science to the fiction.

This is a movie where a man travels to Neptune, a distance of 2.7 billion miles, without ageing a day – a reach even when that man is Brad Pitt.

It features killer baboons in zero gravity. At one point, Pitt jacks a spaceship – while it’s taking off. On paper, at least, it’s Moonraker with a PhD.

Leave any disbelief at the door, though, and you’ll be rewarded with an often gorgeous, soulful sci-fi that’s charged with emotion and bursting with spectacle.

For the most part, Ad Astra wears its near-future-ness with a light touch. Exactly what’s happening on Earth is kept deliberately murky, beyond it being a time of ‘hope and conflict’ where the ratio seems to skew heavily towards the latter.

Short-haul space travel has been commercialised, while the mineral-rich moon is a battleground of vying national interests and plagued by space pirates. Negotiating this politicised solar system is Brad Pitt’s veteran astronaut, Major Roy McBride.

He’s tasked with finding the father – legendary spaceman Clifford McBride (Tommy Lee Jones) – he’d long presumed dead. Not only is he very much alive, but he’s also gone rogue on a scientific mission near Neptune and has a seismic weapon at his disposal.

Pitt does a great job of smuggling a sense of boyish hurt under the coolness. The scars left by his father’s absence are more vivid than he thought and the final third of the movie is all the more moving for it.

Less successful is Pitt’s voiceover, which is subdued.

It’s often thrilling, occasionally improbable,sometimes confounding, but like its director, Ad Astra is never bound by the gravitational pull of the ordinary. Strap in. By Phil De Semlyen

WHAT IS IT...
A futuristic space movie with top visuals

WHY GO...
It’s Brad Pitt, but in outer space

DIRECTOR
James Gray

RELEASE DATE
Sep19

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