Saturday, September 21, 2019

Ad Astra - Movie Review

The Movie: Ad Astra

The Director: James Gray

The Cast: Brad Pitt, Tommy Lee Jones, Ruth Negga, Liv Tyler, Donald Sutherland, Kimberly Elise, Loren Dean, Donnie Keshawarz, John Ortiz, John Finn

The Story: Astronaut Roy McBride undertakes a mission across an unforgiving solar system to uncover the truth about his missing father and his doomed expedition that now, 30 years later, threatens the universe.

The Review:
We have now reached a time in film history where we have a pretty steady stream of thoughtful, high production value science fiction films that aren't about laser beams and blowing stuff up with movies like The Martian, Interstellar, and Gravity all receiving awards season nominations and victories. Ad Astra definitely looks to fit into this space by taking a deliberately paced approach to a story that is similar to the aforementioned Interstellar and even more so like the definitive classic, 2001: A Space Odyssey.

While the premise of the story is interesting, son takes off into space to rescue humanity from father who may or may not be preparing to end all life in the solar system, the execution is disjointed and not very engaging at all. This should have been a showcase for Brad Pitt to really flex the creativity and diversity in his acting arsenal but what we get as a monotone and nearly flat lined delivery that was a bit disappointing if I'm being totally honest. I mean, look what this guy just did in Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, it's like two completely different people. I know the character is supposed to be a much more subdued personality but you can still take that and make it interesting.

As far as the rest of the cast, we get to see Tommy Lee Jones, Donald Sutherland, Liv Tyler, John Ortiz, and especially Ruth Negga all completely wasted with minimal screen time and really nothing to do. I was so looking forward to this cast and then it basically turned into fleeting moments of brilliance and then gone. Yes, each of them were great and were the most interesting things about the movie. I can't say enough how, if you are going to have Ruth Negga in your movie, you have to take full advantage of the opportunity and actually give her something to do, the woman is incredible and lights up every moment she's on screen.

Being a science fiction movie about space exploration, director James Gray does deliver on some truly stunning cinematography that just begs to be watched on the biggest screen possible. Of course the movie is available to view in all the premium format theaters so, if you do watch the movie, I recommend going that route. This is seriously some of the best space stuff that has been put on screen in a good while and would almost say the movie is worth watching just for that alone.

On the other side of this, the rest of the movie is pretty much filled with close ups of Brad Pitt's face because he is the star of the movie and I guess we're supposed to analyze every minute detail of his facial expressions as he delivers mostly uninteresting dialog. I've never been able to figure out film makers' fascination with shoving the camera up actors' noses every chance they get because I guess they forget that their movie is going to be shown on gigantic screens that emphasize every detail anyway. I want to see what's happening in the entire space around an actor's performance, it gives everything more life and energy than just looking at their face. Ugh, so frustrating.

The Verdict:
If you like Interstellar, You will probably like Ad Astra. If you prefer Armageddon, you will probably not like this movie. For me, the movie is filled with wasted opportunities and ends up being a mostly uninteresting disappointment that has flashes of brilliance that punctuate what could have been.

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