Finding Heart In The Darkness: Our Review of ‘Ad Astra’

Posted in Movies, Theatrical by - September 20, 2019
Finding Heart In The Darkness: Our Review of ‘Ad Astra’

My God…It’s Full Of Stars…

Ad Astra is one of those kinds of pieces of science fiction that isn’t always popular but always ends up iconic as a thoughtful and truly epic look down at the rabbit hole of humanity which is what all science fiction is supposed to do in the first place.

Astronaut Roy McBride (Brad Pitt) travels to the outer edges of the solar system to find his missing father and unravel a mystery that threatens the survival of our planet. His journey will uncover secrets that challenge the nature of human existence and our place in the cosmos.

While the common line going around of calling Ad Astra Apocalypse Now” in space is an apt one, it’s also doing it a real disservice as the film manages to find a problematic through line in modern society and expose how it’s not only silly but will eventually be kind of harmful.

In what could only be described as a visionary swath of inspired genius, Ad Astra reminds us that despite the inherently flawed nature of humanity on the whole, we still need each other and have to have faith in each other in order to be able to survive.

Director James Grey (who also co-wrote the film) has easily assembled his most visually ambitious film as well as his most emotionally relevant at the same time.  It’s got old school credibility given the lush pastiche it plays in and it isn’t afraid to make sure that space feels like a lonely and scary thing in spite of how much we’re quite literally dying to explore it.  Grey strikes a stunning accord between this very personal and intimate story against the scale and scope of it all and you can’t help but get sucked into it all.

Cinematographer Hoyte Van Hoytema who worked on epic looking films like Interstellar & Dunkirk knows how to make something feel expansive and overwhelming without it ever taking away from the emotional core of what is happening on screen.  In a very big looking universe we got anchored into something very personal and very human by Brad Pitt’s excellent performance.

In many ways Pitt is truly the centre of gravity for this movie.  With his character we get a man who at least outwardly is at peace with the universe around him and capable of self-sustaining much like the world he lives in but as the situation unfolds we see how this is a guy in turmoil and in a world where everything is controlled, he’s at odds with himself…and he’s not alone.

In this cold near future world where everything is very controlled and managed, Pitt’s character Roy McBride has to make peace with his own existence and in the fever dream that Grey puts on the screen we see the genuine struggle that he deals with and how it mirrors with society.  Pitt carries the weight of an entire planet in this film and he does it with grace and aplomb and we buy him as the symbol of humanity, warts and all.

The balance of the ensemble doesn’t actually do much except pop in and out where needed but Donald Sutherland, Ruth Negga & Kimberly Elise all do good work and Tommy Lee Jones as his father and really the Colonel Kurtz to Pitt’s Capt Willard makes for a great dynamic  in the short time that they share on screen together.

Ultimately, Ad Astra isn’t perfect and it can be a challenging watch at times but like any good piece of art it’s actually something that grows on you with time and will undoubtedly be one of the better pieces of sci-fi cinema that we’ll get in the modern age and it will ultimately earn its place of reverence among some of the all time greats of the genre.

This post was written by
David Voigt is a Toronto based writer with a problem and a passion for the moving image and all things cinema. Having moved from production to the critical side of the aisle for well over 10 years now at outlets like Examiner.com, Criticize This, Dork Shelf (Now That Shelf), to.Night Newspaper he’s been all across his city, the country and the continent in search of all the news and reviews that are fit to print from the world of cinema.
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