One of my favorite genres when it comes to film is science fiction and when I heard about As Astra, I was stoked. I just wished that this came out a week earlier so that I could’ve avoided Hustlers (2019), but I digress. When I saw this I went with one of my best friends and my brother and before the movie started he commented that he was looking forward to it due to the plot having a similar tone to Interstellar (2014) and other science fiction films, to which I agreed. Does it live up to the hype? Let’s find out.
Taking place in the near future, Ad Astra follows astronaut Roy McBride (Brad Pitt) who finds out from his superiors that his father (Tommy Lee Jones), who is also an astronaut, may still be alive somewhere across the galaxy. Roy’s father was working on a experiment called the Lima Project, on a ship orbiting Neptune, the source of mysterious power surges that have been affecting Earth and could worsen over time. After learning about this turn of events, Roy accepts the mission to journey towards Neptune in a fruitless attempt to stop these surges and possibly confront his dad.
Ad Astra is pretty simple once you get right down to it; an astronaut goes on a mission to find his father. While it has a simple plot, its biggest draw for me was the gorgeous cinematography and visuals. As I mentioned before, science fiction is a genre that I favor and if you can wow me with that then half the work is done. Another thing that helps it stand out from the rest is how it’s shot on a narrative level. From the previews you would think that this is yet another blockbuster in space, but in reality it’s something different. Director James Gray made this a space exploration film as tangible as possible and I felt that throughout it.
If there’s one phrase that stuck with me after viewing Ad Astra, it is “sins of the father.” The Old Testament (specifically Exodus, Deuteronomy, and Numbers) heavily mentions this phrase and this is mentioned by Brad Pitt’s character more than half way through the film. This is something I deeply appreciated as Pitt’s character struggles to cope with what his father has been doing across the galaxy and while I won’t go into detail on what he does that puts him in such turmoil (for spoiler reasons), I will say it added some depth to the character.
If I had any complaints with Ad Astra it would probably be the characters themselves. While this film may get recognition for its cinematography and visuals, the characters, as well the acting, didn’t impress me enough given the situations and environment into which they were thrown. Fortunately that bit of criticism didn’t ruin the entire experience for me.
It may not be a perfect film, but Ad Astra is a gorgeous and thought-provoking science fiction film that deeply captured my attention from beginning to end. Definitely one of the best original films that I have seen this year.