By Mark Saldana
Rating: 3 (Out of 4 Stars)
Writer/director James Gray’s new film visits the near future, but doesn’t cime close to conquering new territory. Ad Astra comes across as a cerebral science fiction movie, but does not have a whole lot to say stylistically or thematically. While it vies to be a successor to 2001: A Space Odyssey, it merely skims the surface of what makes that film great. Don’t get me completely wrong, though, I actually enjoyed this film overall, but the sum of its parts doesn’t quite add up to an exceptional movie.
Brad Pitt stars as Major Roy McBride, a hard-working astronaut who must undertake the most personal mission of his life. Several years ago, Roy’s father, Clifford, was an astronaut who committed himself to a space mission known as the Lima Project which was dedicated to the search for extraterrestrial life. The highly risky experiments conducted by the Lima Project may or may not be responsible for some strange power surges affecting the entire solar system. Roy gets assigned to further investigate the matter and discover the truth behind his father’s legacy.
Written and directed by James Gray, who co-wrote the screenplay with Ethan Gross, Ad Astra aspires to be so much more than it actually deserves. Though the film has its share of stunning visuals and a particularly exciting action sequence, too much time gets spent and wasted by slow pacing overly lengthy moments of silence. It comes across as waxing philosophically and actually does so in moments, but over exerts itself in the process.
To the movie’s benefit, Brad Pit delivers a superb performance that kept me invested though I felt like the movie was fighting me off. Also exceptional is Tommy Lee Jones who gives a particularly heartbreaking turn as Roy’s father Clifford. The movie also stars Donald Sutherland, Ruth Negga, Liv Tyler, Jaime Kennedy, John Finn, and Kimberly Elise.
Now I realize my rating seems rather high, given most of my criticisms, but I will say that this movie is certainly an experience that just barely deserves to be experienced theatrically. The visuals and sounds are quite wonderful and the performances of Brad Pitt and Tommy Lee Jones help keep this movie from completely derailing. I wouldn’t rush out and spend top dollar to see this film, but a matinee will do nicely.