Moderator / Reviewer
- Apr 4, 2017
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Ad Astra is probably one of the most strange and fascinating sci-fi movies of the last decades. Well, at least in the blockbuster Hollywood arena, as there are some incredibly bizarre and strange sci-fi movies out in the indie world recently, but for a big name film like this one, it’s definitely different. I’m actually not even sure where to put my film rating on this one. After watching it through twice I’m still mulling it over and still deciding whether I absolutely love Ad Astra, or whether I dislike it. It’s strange, enthralling, very familiar in some parts, yet totally alien and esoteric in others. The first half of the film engages in your typical space adventure, but once Brad Pitt’s Major McBride gets to Mars things take a dramatic turn towards the introspective arthouse genre. Even the ending, as “actiony” and Hollywood as it is, is over shadowed by the thick layers of self inspection and theorizing that McBride engages in throughout the film.
The story starts out simply enough. Major Roy McBride (Brad Pitt) is called in to the NASA-esque SpaceCom (Space Command) for a top secret briefing. His father left some 30 years ago on a mission to discover extra terrestrial life outside of the solar system, only for something to go wrong with the mission, resulting in total loss of contact with the Lima Project (the name of the operation). However, a cosmic “shockwave” has reached Earth, totally disrupting her power system, and it seems to carry the nuclear signature of the Lima. Meaning, Commander McBride (Tommy Lee Jones) is likely still alive and hiding out in deep space near Neptune. SpaceCom wants to ship Major McBride out to Mars where a signal station is still running up there in hopes of getting in contact with his father, and hopefully bringing the Lima Project back home.
The mission is simple, and Roy is more than happy to try and bring his long lost father home. However, when he gets to Mars some suspicious circumstances occur which shake his faith in SpaceCom. They’re obviously hiding something from him, and with the help of a local base operations manager (Ruth Negga) manages to figure out that SpaceCom isn’t there to bring the Lima Project home at all. Instead their plan is to cover up a stain on their reputation and make sure no one ever remembers the Lima or her mission. Sneaking aboard the ship that brought him to Mars, Major McBride sets out on a mission to find the Lima Project, and hopefully bring his father back in one piece.
In some ways I really REALLY love this movie. It’s hypnotic in the way it moves, with dialog that feels right out of a robots repertoire, as well as STUNNING cinematography that really reels the viewer in and hooks them with the space visuals. I haven’t seen a space movie this visually stunning since Gravity or Interstellar, and with a drastically reduced budget at that. Acting wise I would have to say that we really need to give top billing to Brad Pitt’s facial expressions. There’s not a whole lot of verbal storytelling with him if you really think about it, as he’s nothing but a narrator much of the time, but his facial expressions are so immensely expressive and nuanced that you get whole books worth of dialog just from his facial cues. Tommy Lee Jones is only in the film for a few minutes sadly, but he does a great job as the burned out space captain on camera, especially as he hasn’t been in the spotlight for quite some time.
Rated PG-13 for some violence and bloody images, and for brief strong languag
4K Video: Video:
- "The Void"
• To the Stars
• A Man Named Roy
• The Crew of the Cepheus
• The Art of Ad Astra
• Reach for the Stars
• Audio Commentary by Director James Gray
• Space Age: The VFX
Ad Astra is a fascinating film, even if it is slightly flawed. There’s a bit too many plot contrivances for it’s own good, and the main theme seems to deal with coming to grips with your own emotions, and is played by a man who acts like an automaton the entire film. Still, it’s a multi-layed film that seems to get better with multiple viewings, and has some of the most gorgeous cinematography that I’ve seen in a movie since Gravity. The film is one that isn’t going to appeal to everyone by a long shot, but I highly suggest checking it out for yourself, as this is definitely a movie where your mileage may vary from person to person. The 4K UHD disc is absolutely stunning, with a great video transfer and an absolutely perfect Atmos mix. Definitely check it out.
Starring: Brad Pitt, Tommy Lee Jones, Ruth Negga, Donald Sutherland, Kimberly Elise, Loren Dean, Bobby Nish, Sean Blakemore
Directed by: James Gray
Written by: James Gray, Ethan Gross
Aspect Ratio: 2.39:1 HEVC
Audio: English: Dolby Atmos (Dolby TrueHD 7.1 Core), French, Spanish, German, Italian, Japanese DTS 5.1, Czech, Hungarian, Polish DD 5.1
Subtitles: English SDH, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Spanish, Czech, Danish, Dutch, Finnish, Hungarian, Korean, Norwegian, Polish, Swedish
Studio: 20th Century Fox
Runtime: 124 Minutes
Blu-ray Release Date: December 17th, 2019
Recommendation: Definitely Check It Out