Cert 12A 122mins Stars 4
Brad Pitt aims for the stars in this grandiose and epic existential sci-fi drama, a breathtakingly beautiful journey to the loneliest edge of the solar system which explores humanity’s need for companionship.
As the obsessive astronaut sent on a mission to find his father and save the Earth from destruction, Pitt displays none of the humour demonstrated so recently in Quentin Tarantino’s Once Upon a Time in Hollywood.
Instead Pitt is required to be at his most insular and least starry, and smartly calibrates his performance to the material in order to establish and anchor the melancholy tone.
Tommy Lee Jones is cast as his father and is equally subdued even while playing god in space, and much like poor Liv Tyler as Pitt’s wife, he isn’t overburdened by dialogue.
As a psychological examination of the inability of men to communicate with each other, this is far from boldly going where no film has gone before.
Mind you, grief, isolation and a troubled father-son relationship is the familiar stomping ground of director James Gray. And it follows a similar path as his repetitive 2016 period adventure, Lost City of Z, which saw TV star Charlie Hunnam carry on up the jungle.
Yet the craftsmanship is typically superb as Gray takes the journey into darkness of Francis Ford Coppola’s epic Vietnam war masterpiece, Apocalypse Now, and takes it into space – we even have a bloody episode with space baboons.
Plus Gray ambitiously apes the visual and sound design from Stanley Kubrick sci-fi classic, 2001: A Space Odyssey. But where Kubrick explained nothing, With Pitt’s voice-over fully explains his feelings of remorse and regret.
On my first viewing I found Ad Astra ponderous and pretentious, yet on the second time around I found it’s blockbuster action scenes more exciting, and far more enjoyed it’s thoughtful, elegant and graceful rhythms. On a third visit I’ll probably love it.