Ad Astra Poster

Ad Astra (2019)

2h 3m
September 17th 2019
Adventure, Drama, Mystery, Science Fiction, Thriller

The near future, a time when both hope and hardships drive humanity to look to the stars and beyond. While a mysterious phenomenon menaces to destroy life on planet Earth, astronaut Roy McBride undertakes a mission across the immensity of space and its many perils to uncover the truth about a lost expedition that decades before boldly faced emptiness and silence in search of the unknown.

Ad Astra (2019) on IMDb

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Brad Pitt
Brad Pitt Roy McBride
Tommy Lee Jones
Tommy Lee Jones H. Clifford McBride
Ruth Negga
Ruth Negga Helen Lantos
John Ortiz
John Ortiz Lieutenant General Rivas
Liv Tyler
Liv Tyler Eve
Donald Sutherland
Donald Sutherland Thomas Pruitt
Greg Bryk
Greg Bryk Chip Garnes
Loren Dean
Loren Dean Donald Stanford
Kimberly Elise
Kimberly Elise Lorraine Deavers
John Finn
John Finn Brigadier General Stroud
LisaGay Hamilton
LisaGay Hamilton Adjutant General Vogel
Donnie Keshawarz
Donnie Keshawarz Captain Lawrence Tanner
Bobby Nish
Bobby Nish Franklin Yoshida
Sean Blakemore
Sean Blakemore Willie Levant
Freda Foh Shen
Freda Foh Shen Captain Lu
Kayla Adams
Kayla Adams Female Flight Attendant
Ravi Kapoor
Ravi Kapoor Arjun Dhariwal
Elisa Perry
Elisa Perry Woman in White Pants / Shirt
Kimmy Shields
Kimmy Shields Sergeant Romano
Kunal Dudheker
Kunal Dudheker Technician 1
Alyson Reed
Alyson Reed Janice Collins
Sasha Compre
Sasha Compère Female Team Member
Justin Dray
Justin Dray Male Team Member
Alexandria Rousset
Alexandria Rousset Woman on Screen
Directed By: James Gray
Written By: James Gray (Screenplay), Ethan Gross (Screenplay)

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by Louisa Moore - Screen Zealots - Is this helpful?UpvoteDownvote
“Ad Astra” is one of the most cerebral sci-fi films I’ve ever seen. The original story from writer / director James Gray gives an intimate look at the emotional toll that comes from being just one man lost among the stars in the vastness of space. It’s like a more existential version of Terrence Malik’s “Tree of Life,” but set in the outer reaches of our galaxy.

Roy McBride (Brad Pitt), an astronaut with nerves of steel, travels to Neptune to find his missing hero astronaut father (Tommy Lee Jones). As part of a top secret mission, Roy begins to unravel a mystery and uncover truths that may threaten the survival of Earth. This may sound like a blockbuster action thriller, but it’s not. Instead, the film is an emotionally complex introspective about a man burdened with the sins of his father.

Pitt gives a stunning, understated performance as a man struggling with the psychological toll of isolation and regret. It’s one of his best to date, and it’s nearly impossible not to have a deep emotional connection as you share his character’s established sadness. The father and son dynamic shapes Roy’s life, and he’s never quite gotten over the abandonment issues he’s felt since he was a child. The scenes where Roy and Cliff finally reunite are brief but come from a heartfelt place of forgiveness that grows with the passage of time. It’s the perfect analysis of our own humanity, as we all continue searching with a blind hope to find our footing in the cosmos.

The film relies heavily on voiceover narration from Roy, something I normally hate because it feels like lazy storytelling. That isn’t the case here. It works well and is a very effective method that complements the director’s vision. In fact, everything about this film is a success, from Max Richter‘s haunting original score to the special effects and striking cinematography (by Hoyte Van Hoytema), tight direction, and detailed sound design. Gray achieves what he’s going for when every element of the film works together as a whole, and it all is executed in a stunning fashion.

“Ad Astra” is highly intelligent and melancholy science fiction that will leave a lasting impression on those who can appreciate its sadness and beauty.
by msbreviews - Is this helpful?UpvoteDownvote
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I love sci-fi space movies, especially when these depict the cosmos in such a visually stunning manner as Ad Astra does. It’s one of those films where the visuals elevate whatever narrative is being told. If you don’t get goosebumps or get excited with the opening sequence of this movie, then it might not be the film you’re looking for. From the quiet but powerful sound design to the impressive cinematography, James Gray delivers a visually captivating story with an outstanding protagonist. Brad Pitt is definitely getting tons of nominations this awards season (let’s not forget his amazing role in Once Upon a Time in Hollywood).

His subtle yet incredibly emotional performance shows an astonishing range. He carries the whole screenplay in his shoulders, and I don’t mind that at all. There’s a lot of narration, and here’s where I transition to the most divisive aspect of the movie: it’s a slow-burn. Now, there’s no problem with a film being deliberately slow. In fact, some of my favorite movies of all-time aren’t fast-paced. They cherish their story and make the audience feel interested in what they’re experiencing. Ad Astra isn’t an action flick or a comedy, it’s a character-driven drama, so most of the runtime is devoted to developing Roy.

That said, don’t go in with expectations of feeling entertained all the time. Some moments aren’t supposed to excite you or leave you jaw-dropped. Some sequences are just meant to make you feel immersed by the environment, be lost in space (IMAX is the mandatory way of watching this feature). Don’t expect the film to make an 80-day trip to some planet end in two cuts and 20 seconds. Gray purposefully establishes a slow pace. Obviously, general audiences don’t usually enjoy this type of flicks, but if you’re able to manage your expectations realistically, you’re one step closer to not feel bored throughout the runtime.

The first act is the one that captures everyone’s attention. It doesn’t waste time on Earth, it goes through what’s happening pretty quickly, and it possesses 90% of the heavy action (including one of the best opening sequences of the year). Sound has a significant impact on how Gray films his sequences, and it’s unbelievable how well-shot the chasing scenes on the Moon are. Scientifically speaking, this is no Interstellar where you simply have to accept some mind-blowing yet unjustified stuff. Ad Astra doesn’t have a single scene where one might think “this completely takes me out of the movie, I can’t accept that this is possible in some fictional future”. This is a huge compliment to a space film containing several launches, lunar bases, and (very) long space journeys.

However, the remaining two acts focus intensely on Pitt’s character, slowing down the main plot. Like I wrote above, there’s a lot of development through Roy’s thoughts. Extensive narration is almost always an issue, even when the narrator is Brad Pitt. Some monologues do indeed develop the character or explain what he’s feeling, but some tend to fall into the philosophical side that doesn’t always carry a meaningful or interesting message. Using everyday language, sometimes it’s a bit boring… Additionally, the ending might be a letdown for a lot of people. Tommy Lee Jones (H. Clifford McBride) doesn’t have a lot of screentime, and I can’t really delve into details about his storyline, but his character’s relationship with Roy doesn’t exactly serve as a fantastic payoff.

Max Richter’s score is one of 2019’s best, and I hope it gets recognized by every award show. It definitely helps the experience to be more enthralling. The lack of sound in space is also powerful in its own way. Beautifully-edited, but with a continuously slow pace that doesn’t change from the moment the second act begins. However, the story of Ad Astra is vastly superior to, for example, Gray’s The Lost City of Z, which I genuinely disliked. This space adventure is visually more exciting, its story is more engaging, and its protagonist is more compelling than everything else in Gray’s previous installment. Finally, it’s one of those movies that watching at a film theater (mainly IMAX) or at home, makes a massive difference. You’ll never feel as entertained or captivated at home, so make sure to check this one at the best possible screen near you.

All in all, Ad Astra is yet another display case for Brad Pitt’s chances at winning an Oscar. With a subtle yet powerful performance, Pitt carries the whole story to safe harbor with tremendous help from the eyegasmic visuals. Technically, it’s one of 2019’s closest movies to being perfect. Very well-shot, well-edited, with an immersive score, and gorgeous cinematography. However, it’s a slow-burn that doesn’t always work as such. Narration is the go-to method to develop Pitt’s character, and while it works most of the time, it slows down the main plot, becoming a tad boring during a few moments. The ending isn’t the impactful payoff that the film needed, and the incredible supporting cast is under-utilized. In the end, it’s still a great movie and one that should be seen at the biggest and best screen possible, so go see it for yourself!

Rating: B+
by itsogs - Is this helpful?UpvoteDownvote
This movie had some decent actors, sadly the story was disappointing and quite slow. This would be a good option for those nights when you just can't fall asleep.
by The Movie Diorama - Is this helpful?UpvoteDownvote
Ad Astra galactically depicts sorrow, proving that no one can hear you cry in space. For the past few years, dramas set in the expansive dangers of space have been my bread and butter. Devouring them during my annual breakfast as I purposefully starve myself for the taste of space traversal. Every year, the likes 'Arrival', 'Blade Runner 2049', 'First Man', 'Interstellar' and my all-time favourite film 'Gravity', have secured scores ranging from outstanding to perfect. Whilst Ad Astra may be tilting towards the former adjective, it's still irrefutably one of the best films of the year thanks to Gray's understanding, yet again, of what makes a character study captivating. After unearthing the possibility that his missing father may still be alive, his astronaut son travels across the Solar System in search for him and to unravel a mysterious power surge phenomenon that threatens humanity's survival.

Immediately, one thing I need to brush off my chest is the horrendous marketing. This is not a sci-fi blockbuster. There is limited "action". And if you're wanting the next 'Star Wars' or 'Avatar', then remove yourself from the cinema and watch mind-numbing nonsense like 'Angel Has Fallen' instead. This is a James Gray extravaganza. A meticulously woven character study, harnessing melancholia to challenge an existential crisis. Thematically, Ad Astra's premise bolsters a plethora of metaphorical imagery that divulges into the empirical purpose of humanity. Majestic planets emitting every prismatic shade available, yet emanating no emotional connectivity. The vacuous expansivity of space, marking humanity's reflection on life as a mere speck of stardust. Worldly hostility reaching the depths of our galaxy, hyperbolising the "world-eating" philosophy of our own self-destruction as a species. The obsession to venture forth. Departing love, hate and grief. Welcoming nothingness.

Gray's space-opera is a sorrowful tale, intently focusing on the pressures of a son following in the footsteps of his acclaimed father. A patriarch of inspiration to many. Allowing a tangible tense bond to illuminate the stars with despair and anguish. Pitt's universally nuanced performance brings forward stoic mannerisms that allow McBride to feel these emotions. Minor glitches that break character, such as slamming the wall in frustration, showcase the purity of humanity within him.

Gray encompasses the plot around McBride. The lunar pirate raid, mayday rescue and crew brawl scenes, whilst inserting mainstream tendencies into a contemporary drama, were emblems of McBride's emotions. Fear, rage and desperation respectively. A series of gestures that, again, hark back to humanity's endurance. The mildly engaging supporting cast, ranging from Jones, Sutherland and Negga, acting as stability for McBride. Stepping stones allowing him to find his father, as if fate was dictating his alignment. Narration, shifting between inner thoughts to exposition, was overused and irked me with its basic functionality. Hoytema's cinematography could've elicited these unnecessary lines of dialogue from his beautiful imagery. And beautiful just doesn't do it justice.

Immediately, from the iridescent opening shot, Hoytema takes hold. Utilising colours and shadows to produce the incarnation of life, what it means to see. The blue of Neptune, the red of Mars. Clashing tonalities resembling McBride's emotions. Accompanied by Richter's euphoric score and the almost '2001' production design, and Ad Astra is technically a masterful piece of art. Gray's conclusion is teetering on the edge of underwhelming, for me atleast, with its rushed journey home that dissipated the simmering sorrow built exquisitely beforehand. The ending I personally would've desired, would be the ending no one wanted (but that's life I guess...).

Regardless, the small criticisms here and there are subject to change upon an inevitable rewatch. Gray is fast becoming one of my favourite directors. He is a man who understands character. He acknowledges the obsession of man. Amalgamating life's wondrously challenging hurdles into singular expressive characters. Ad Astra's meditative and resonant pacing, whilst is sure to put many viewers off, ensures that loss and grief are captured wherever a soul may be. At home or in deep space. It never vanishes.
by Matthew Brady - Is this helpful?UpvoteDownvote
“Work hard, play later.”

Once a year ever since ‘Gravity’ was released, we seem to get new stories about the voyage of space where certain characters “do not go gentle into that good night.”

I wasn’t wowed over the trailers for Ad Astra, because when you work at a cinema and spent most of your day watching trailers, well trust me when I say this didn’t stand out from the rest. I originally thought it was about saving the world or something like that. For what it didn’t advertise was a slow burn sci-fi movie that’s on the same level as ‘Blade Runner 2049’ and the emotional side as ‘First Man’. A personal story told through a first person narrative about unresolved issues from past relationship.

Basically an art house movie with a huge budget.

‘Ad Astra’ was pretty good. After only seeing it once, I feel that this will grow on me overtime and so far it has. A mixture of both ‘2001: A Space Odyssey’ and Terrence Malick movies. While not as great as those two comparisons, but while watching I couldn’t help to be reminded of those two.

There's some beautiful and impressive shots through out the movie, especially when the movie constantly shows you the entire scale of space and planets through the characters journey. The colors adds to environment that oozes with style and has a tranquil feel to it. I think that’s where the Blade Runner vibes really come in. Brilliant cinematography by Hoyte Van Hoytema.

Brad Pitt was terrific as the silent astronaut with tangled mood swings. It’s not an explosive performance, just simple enough for it to be effective. Any other actor would’ve gone big for no other reasons than being overly dramatic and it makes sense for his character to be closed off; similar to Ryan Gosling in ‘First Man’, where his emotional health comes last. You learn very little about his character, as most of his backstory is only in the background for you to piece together the puzzle.

The score was mystical and often eerie at times which helped ties in with the unknown aspects of space. The visual effects are excellent and nearly photo realistic at times - something you come to expect by now with space movies.

I wasn’t too sure about the narration at first, because it was very off putting and a cheap way for the character to express himself. However it sorta grew on me after awhile and some of it was almost rambling with Roy questioning every decision he made.

Now for the issues:

I have no idea why Liv Tyler was in this movie, because she literally does nothing and could have easily been cut out. It felt like a re shoot for some reason.

Remember when I said the visual effects are photo realistic ‘at times’, but that isn’t always the case with certain scenes. There’s a deranged chimpanzee that pops up and it looks really phoney. I think that entire scene could been cut out. I’ve brought up twice about cutting scenes, because I believe if this movie went back to the editing room one more time, then my score would be a lot higher.

There’s a ridiculously and almost laughable scene where Roy (Brad Pitt) steaks into a spaceship that he’s not suppose to be on, and all the astronauts on board go into a frenzy and accidentally start kill themselves while trying to cease Roy. No joke. Roy doesn't even do anything as he never intended to hurt them. It was cheap way of making Roy isolated for the rest of the movie. A few years ago I remember reading a horrifying incident that happened to astronaut Luca Parmitano where he reported water inside of his space suit helmet, and nearly become the first astronaut to drown in space. However, Luca remained calm throughout the whole incident despite the odds of him dying being high, but in the end he survived. So it’s really strange seeing these trained astronauts freaking out because came on board.

Overall rating: Out of the whole spectacle, I find the meaning of the movie the most striking. The themes of family, love and abandonment plays a major role in the story. The whole idea of “working hard and playing later” comes with a cost, which is the less time we spend with our loved ones and abandoning everything to pursuit something better out there when in reality the best things in life are right here. When you discover nothing there’s no turning back and no finding your way back. I’ve been thinking about it for awhile now after seeing the movie.

Never underestimate James Gray as a storyteller.

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