Ad Astra is a very bizarre film starring Brad Pitt as Roy Mcbride, and Tommy Lee Jones as Clifford Mcbride, Roy’s father. Roy goes to space in search of his father, who disappeared years before the events of the film on the mysterious Lima project around Neptune. His father is believed to be the cause of the electrical storms plaguing the Earth, as they originated from the area around where he disappeared.
The reason the film is bizarre is not due to its strange premise, but due to how underutilized it actually is. The storms feel like a subplot, an afterthought, and what really takes center stage is Roy’s development. Watching him grow and confront his demons is very compelling, however the issue lies in how the film was marketed. People walking in expected to see Roy fight space pirates and push the boundaries of the outer reaches of space, and instead watched him slowly overcome his personal disconnection from everybody around him. The film is amazing, but one of the ways that it can severely disappoint is through its bad marketing.
The development at the center of the film, however, is still amazing. It develops slowly and is evident from start to finish, and seeing Roy forced to reevaluate his values and his life, even, makes for a compelling arc.
The direction James Gray gives is also stellar. The film primarily utilizes neutral colors in the beginning, and even dampens the other ones, giving a monotone feel for everything on Earth, and the Moon. It flickers from white to red on Mars, giving a sense of impending danger and conflict ahead, and it works like a charm. Finally, the film opts for dark colors in the third act for the most part, but also utilizes the cool blue of Neptune in the climax, save for one brilliant flash of white light. Finally, extreme long shots of Mars, the Moon, Outer Space, and Neptune are absolutely beautiful.
Lastly, Brad Pitt’s performance is very fitting for the character of Roy Mcbride. He starts off as almost robotic, very flat, and slowly over the course of the film, we see the shell around him beginning to crack, displaying more and more emotion.
While not without some flaws, Ad Astra still proves to be a wonderful experience if you are willing to see it as a story about overcoming personal demons, and not as a large scale sci-fi film.