What do we hide from? How far are we willing to go to get away from the things we are afraid of? Ad Astra, by director James Gray (Lost City of, The Immigrant), brings us into a not so distant future where these themes are heavily explored.
Brad Pitt (Once Upon A Time In…Hollywood, Fury) plays the somewhat subdued Roy McBride, son of the famous Clifford McBride portrayed by the incredible Tommy Lee Jones (Lincoln, M.I.B.). Roy followed in the footsteps of his father; exploring the cosmos and beyond. Often, you get the sense that maybe this life wasn’t for Roy. He sacrifices a lot to be out there; his marriage, any sort of social life. It becomes a real detriment to his character, so don’t fault Brad Pitt for seemingly feeling held back in any way. Roy is a tightly closed bottle of emotions that’s cap is held on to firmly.
The film is beautifully shot. There are some truly jaw-dropping sequences of just simple space exploration in its 2 hours and 4 minute runtime. The film has an incredible ability to pull you into this world, because it is our world. Everything just made sense. A space station on the Moon is just as congested as any airport on Earth; full of restaurants and tourist memorabilia. It is just as much a bustling metropolis as any of our super airports of today.
As Roy continues his quest to find his long-lost father, he eventually makes it to Mars where the film takes a strange shift in tone. Things become more secretive to Roy. There’s even far less of a mark of humans actually being on the red planet. Humanity has successfully hidden itself from the drawbacks of our species.
This is where I think Ad Astra really shines. In the film, Roy is constantly aware of his surroundings to a near hyper extent. He reads the fear on people’s faces, the way his own government treats him, even where he belongs in the cosmic spectrum. He finds himself alone as so many others have. Yet, there are glimpses of irony in this. Most humans in this time find themselves closer to God. Basking in his creation, yet helplessly lost.
This is the crux of Brad Pitt’s character. He must play a man who hides nearly everything from his environment. Much like his father, he is doomed to commit the same sins that got Clifford McBride in the situation Ad Astra presents us with. Something that is hard to get into without spoiling anything.
Ad Astra is a hard film to review. There are so many things going on and so many angles from which you can analyze it. Whether it be the seemingly infallible faith many people have or the constructs Roy has built and surrounded himself in an attempt to not feel anything.
Alas, don’t be discouraged by James Gray’s dystopian future, it’s only a film.
Ad Astra hits theaters September 20th nationwide.
–Mason Potter | Metro Voice News