The news cycle is loud, but we need to hear those who can’t shout
The hero in Ad Astra never goes “to the stars,” as the new film’s title is translated, but stays relatively close to home. Me, I was all suited up for another Brad Pitt sci-fi thriller like 12 Monkeys or World War Z. I was unprepared to explore inner space—a man’s feelings. Abort mission! Knowing the flight path prior to launch, however, perhaps you’ll enjoy the journey more than I did.
Astronaut Roy McBride (Pitt) is the son of a famed space explorer (Tommy Lee Jones) who disappeared decades earlier. High-energy rays originating from the elder McBride’s last known whereabouts near Neptune are wreaking havoc on Earth. Space Command tasks Roy with sending a message to his father, who went into space (dad astra?) searching for signs of extraterrestrial life. Roy wants to go to Neptune personally (Brad astra?) to get some answers. Is his father alive? Is he responsible for the destructive rays? Why did he abandon his wife and son? Roy, estranged from his own wife, begins to confront the ugly reality that, in his words, “the son suffers the sins of the father.”
Spectacular camerawork and Pitt’s sharp performance are earning Ad Astra (rated PG-13 for some violence, bloody images, and brief strong language) praise from many critics—yes, even from one who anticipated less soul-searching and more solar system–searching. A high-altitude free fall, a moon-buggy chase, and a zero-gravity knife fight provide some manly thrills.
“We’re all we’ve got” was expected, but not the excessive self-reflection: Roy frequently attaches a sensor to his neck and answers a computer questioning him to determine if he’s psychologically fit to continue the mission. These exchanges allow viewers to glimpse Roy’s inner turmoil.
“I don’t know if I hope to find him or finally be free of him,” Roy says of his father.
I was hoping to find this Pitt sci-fi flick, like others, intense and intriguing. Mission unaccomplished, I came away sad astra.