REVIEW: Ad Astra is visually impressive but fails to let its stars shine

PUBLISHED: 12:47 21 October 2019

Ad Astra

Ad Astra

Archant

Pitt is an engaging screen presence as always, but isn't suited to such an understated role. (Seek out Ryan Gosling's performance in last year's First Man for a much better example of a brooding astronaut.)

Written and directed by James Gray and staring Brad Pitt, Ad Astra tells the tale of Astronaut Roy McBride, who undertakes a mission to the outer reaches of the solar system to uncover the truth behind his missing father's doomed space expedition.

Communication with the Lima Project was lost while on a mission to seek out intelligent life in the universe.

Now, 30 years later, US space command suspect the missing project is the cause of a series of mysterious energy surges wreaking havoc across the world.

Brad Pitt's Roy McBride, son of mission commander Clifford McBride, is given a secret assignment to travel to the planet Neptune, in the hope that he can reunite with his missing father and stop the destructive anomalies threatening the universe.

The script from Gray, the man behind 2016's The Lost City of Z, sends McBride on a journey of discovery through deep space, but relies heavily on Pitt's voiceover which details the character's inner monologue.

This quickly becomes annoying as the audience is spoon fed the astronaut's every thought, rather than being allowed to interpret the character's motivations themselves.

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Pitt is an engaging screen presence as always, but isn't suited to such an understated role. (Seek out Ryan Gosling's performance in last year's First Man for a much better example of a brooding astronaut)

Support comes in the form of acting legends Tommy Lee Jones and Donald Sutherland. With Jones particularly excellent as the tormented McBride Snr, in the film's latter stages. A performance, albeit brief, that stands out as the film's highlight. Ruth Negga and Liv Tyler also appear, but are badly underserved by the script.

With Hoyt van Hoytema in charge of principal photography, it comes as no surprise that the film is a visual treat. The Oscar-nominated cinematographer uses many of the tricks he employed on the Christopher Nolan film Interstellar to make the journey through space a thoroughly immersive experience.

The film's two action scenes however, both of which are never followed up on, seem jarringly at odds with the rest of the film and have the sad stench of studio interference.

Ad Astra is clearly pulling in two different directions, which combined with the painfully obvious subtext laid on thick throughout, results in a well crafted and visually impressive but otherwise disappointing film.

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