Ad Astra review – Brad Pitt on a thrilling Freudian space odyssey

the Guardian | 9/18/2019 | Peter Bradshaw


Brad Pitt never looked more beautiful than in this mesmeric, flawed, superbly photographed and designed space adventure from director and co-writer James Gray. Pitt plays an astronaut in what is tantalisingly described as the “near future” and Gray’s camera traces the scorched and incised surfaces of distant planets with the same awe that it travels across Brad’s face, savouring the lattice of tiny wrinkles around the eyes, and the discreet harvest of his one-day stubble.

Gray’s direction, like Pitt’s performance, is fiercely intended and intricately controlled and the resulting movie has some of the epic and Conradian qualities of his last film, The Lost City of Z – though with a more satisfying structure and story arc, and with more exciting set pieces. It is, perhaps, a little derivative and maybe finally fudges the dark mystery of the quest’s end point. But this is a film with thrilling ambition and reach.

Pitt - Major - Roy - McBride - Astronaut

Pitt plays Major Roy McBride, an astronaut impeccably cool under pressure, and with a dedication to the job that has perhaps cost him his marriage to Eve (a mute and largely flashback-centred cameo for Liv Tyler). Roy is, moreover, the son of revered astronaut Clifford McBride (Tommy Lee Jones), who taught his boy the values of hard work and emotional self-control, and who became legendary on the news of his death decades ago while heading up a pioneer exploratory project near Neptune. Roy demonstrates his own sang-froid while repairing a rig the height of seven skyscrapers, which begins to shudder under the impact of a terrifying power surge, until McBride free-climbs out to shut off the voltage: a quite stunning opening sequence.

His superiors consider that now is the moment to tell Roy that his father may still be alive, having somehow gone rogue or gone native in deep space, and is...
(Excerpt) Read more at: the Guardian
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