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Known for his gritty New York stories about family (“We Own The Night,” “The Yards“) filmmaker James Gray, has been seemingly getting further and further away from those roots in recent years. While the prescient “The Immigrant” (2013) is set in New York, it was a minor-keyed period piece set in the early 1920s. Similarly, the delicate and intimate “The Lost City of Z” took him as far away from the five boroughs as he’d ever been, across the pond to England and then suffocating in the jungles of the Amazon. His latest movie, the epic space drama, “Ad Astra,” starring Brad Pitt, takes another bold step into the far reaches of outer space and Gray’s comfort zone, superficially.
But for all its scale, size, budget, and scope, James Gray has made a James Gray movie—a thoughtful, meditative odyssey about a man, his greatest fears, vulnerabilities, and self-discoveries (that yes, contains a lot of thrills and horrors too). “Ad Astra” centers on Roy McBride (Brad Pitt), a kind of extraordinary, special forces astronaut. But he’s good at the superhuman stuff—keeping his heart rate down in the middle of chaos and piloting space ships cooly under duress. The human stuff, keeping down a relationship, communicating and loving people, not so much.
Ad - Astra - Centers - Mission - Flare
“Ad Astra” centers on a great mission. When mysterious solar flare menace the Earth and start disrupting the planet, McBride is set to the Moon, then Mars, then Neptune, to uncover the truth about his missing father and a doomed expedition that now, 30 years later, threatens the very existence of humanity.
Yet, as far as Gray seems to be moving away from his roots— like the protagonist of the movie who has to travel to the unforgiving, hostile outer edges of the solar system to find his humanity—”Ad Astra” is in many...
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