Sunday, September 29, 2019

Ad Astra

Movie Name: Ad Astra
Year of Release: 2019
Director: James Gray
Starring: Brad Pitt, Tommy Lee Jones, Ruth Negga, John Ortiz, Liv Tyler, Kimberly Elise, Loren Dean, Donnie Keshawarz, Sean Blakemore, Bobby Nish, LisaGay Hamilton, John Finn
Genre: Drama, Adventure, Sci-Fi
Score out of ten (whole numbers only): 8
View Trailer

Synopsis and Review:
Director James Gray is back, after his latest feature "The Lost City of Z" flew under the radar. "Ad Astra" which premiered at the Venice Film Festival to solid reviews, may be his best film yet. The story focuses on Roy McBride, an accomplished and renown astronaut who survives a dramatic accident from a space station where he's working from. Upon his recovery, Roy is informed that what actually caused his accident was originated by a device from a remote space ship, located on the orbit of  Neptune. That remote ship, commanded and headed by his father, Clifford McBride, was long suspected lost and disabled, but is now potentially dooming the entire human race. Roy is tasked with going to Mars, and attempt to communicate with his potentially still alive father, and get him to disable the ship. As Roy goes through these different steps to get to Mars, he analyzes his life, his relationship with his father, all the while overcoming obstacles that appear and threaten to derail the whole mission. He eventually learns of crucial information, which propels him to go find his father, and try a rescue mission.
"Ad Astra" is an interesting film, one that mixes some of the topics that have been present in most of the director's films, while also having interesting influences from some classics of the sci-fi universe. The film is in essence a dissertation on how unresolved familial relationships can haunt an individual for his whole life, preventing him from connecting and establishing resonant and meaningful relationships of his own. Roy is unperturbed for most of the film, since he chooses not to relate to anyone. He is emptied out for most of the film, and as he becomes more wrapped up in the notion of saving his father, the more that façade begins to crack and his emotions, namely longing, fear, sadness, loneliness, break through. It's an intelligently constructed film, filled with nuance, one where the director is far more interested in understanding why this man has to cross half the universe to get in touch with a father who was never present. There are influences from Stanley Kubrick's "2001", Alfonso Cuaron's "Gravity" and even Andrei Tarkovsky's "Solaris", but the film is aesthetically stunning on its own. The cast is uniformly superb, with great performances from Brad Pitt, Tommy Lee Jones, Donald Sutherland and Ruth Negga. The cinematography from Hoyte Van Hoytema is impeccable, as is the score from Max Richter. A very good film worth watching.