Ad Astra review: Apocalypse Now meets A Space Odyssey with Brad Pitt

CNET | 9/4/2019 | Richard Trenholm
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Brad Pitt in Ad Astra.

Ad Astra is Latin for "to the stars," but there's only one star that matters in this powerful, emotional sci-fi spectacular. Brad Pitt follows the hit Once Upon A Time in Hollywood with a supernova turn as a spaceman on a mission to connect with his father -- and maybe save the universe along the way.

Ad - Astra - Cinemas - Sept - UK

Ad Astra blast off into cinemas Sept. 18 in the UK, Sept. 19 in Australia and Sept. 20 in the US.

Pitt plays a reluctant astronaut who's sealed himself off to human relationships, as alone and drifting in his marital home as if his tether's been cut during a spacewalk. He's a focused and cool-headed member of a military space force and a veteran of combat over the Arctic, but one thing that shakes his cool exterior is the news his dad might still be alive. The downside is that his missing father, also an astronaut, may have doomed the human race.

Pitt - Spaceman - Blackness - Absent - Astronaut

So Pitt's steely spaceman is dispatched back to the blackness to seek the absent astronaut. What follows is a space odyssey that draws as much on the actual mythical Odyssey as it does on sci-fi classic 2001. It's like of Heart of Darkness on the dark side of the moon. Apocalypse Now, years from now.

Space is the place for Pitt.

Ad - Astra - Influences - Sleeve - Pressure

Ad Astra wears its influences on the sleeve of its pressure suit. It has something of Arrival's dreamlike abstractness or Interstellar's grandiose sweep. Yet it's also teasingly timeless, evoking 1970s speculative fictions like Silent Running or Capricorn One with its brown sofas, chunky analogue machinery and concrete moonbases clearly filmed in beat-up power stations.

Despite this, Ad Astra looks like its own thing. There are no talking computers or squawking robots, no fancy holograms or laser guns, but writer and director James Gray...
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