Film Review – Ad Astra

‘To the stars’ we are chauffeured in James Gray’s tense therapy session in space.

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Set in the late twenty-first century, Gray and Ethan Gross’ story, depicts a universe where space travel is so ordinary, we’ve colonised our moon and NASA has stations on Mars. A highly esteemed astronaut, Major Roy McBride (Brad Pit), is given a task to seek and stop a series of “power surges” coming from near Neptune that has threatened life on Earth. The story is then kicked-up a notch as this is the site of a mission McBride’s father, Clifford (Tommy Lee Jones) one of the highly decorated astronauts ever, lost control of, the ‘Lima Project’, sixteen years prior, which has left him to be presumed dead. However, with the recent attacks to human life the agency believes he is still alive and is releasing the antimatter (vessel fuel) that is causing the surges.

Ultimately, a story about acceptance; of an ending; of reality — one of which could potentially exist if it was implementable. Coalescing with Max Richter’s embracing score, which is applied liberally in favour of practical sounds that help tell the story, this intimate and idiosyncratic blockbuster journey's through the cosmos whilst simultaneously scaling its characters down to their essence; displaying a subversion of masculinity whereby the protagonist, embodied by an aching performance by Pitt, is slowly facing his long-suppressed abandonment issues — accepting the futility of man. Stating that even in the future where commercialisation has gotten to point where we have colonised our moon with fast-food franchises, such as Subway, and seemingly journey to it via Virgin Atlantic it is our humanity that is important; that will sustain our existence. Evident with his previous work, “The Immigrant” and “The Lost City of Z”, and now with this, Gray wants to explore the existential questions of the human experience in several ways, of which are relatively different from each other yet still similar. I guess, because for him it’s the journey rather than the destination that is significant. The essence of “Ad Astra” is enhanced by the cinematography of Hoyte van Hoytema (“Interstellar”); displayed in gorgeous epic set–pieces and riddled with several engrossing compositions the cinematography makes the admission price on a Virgin Atlantic voyage to space valid.