Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Review: Ad Astra

Release date: September 20, 2019
Running time: 122 minutes
 Brad Pitt, Liv Tyler, Tommy Lee Jones

Ad Astra is going to be a polarizing movie.  It is the marriage of Gravity and Intersteller, a movie set in a near future that has Major Roy McBride (Brad Pitt) go on a journey to the stars in the hopes of stopping a catastrophic series of electrical surges.  Despite this odd premise, the movie tries to be more grounded in plausible near future technology, and builds an interesting world not so different from our own.  The best part of this movie is that although it is set in a future where space travel is common place, the setting is so well done that the world doesn't seem implausible.  

One thing you will notice about Ad Astra is it is more of a character study than space action movie.  Brad Pitt is the only advertised actor and it shows; the movie focuses on him and him alone.  You get to hear his thoughts, see his reactions to many stressful situations, and really dig into what makes his character tick.  One of the hallmarks of his character is that he is cool under pressure, which can be little off putting since he will show no emotion even in the most intense situations.  It is similar to Ryan Gosling's portrayal of Neil Armstrong in First Man; it actually mutes some of what should be intense action sequences.  But it also means that his character is a great vehicle to experience this future world with, allowing the audience to really take in all that this film has on display.

And speaking of muting, one thing you will notice, or not notice, is the lack of sound in the emptiness of space.  The movie does a great job of recreating the isolation of space.  Many intense scenes are eerily quiet, which is an interesting experience to say the least.  Additionally, although there is music in the film it is not overpowering.  I would recommend watching this film in a quiet location so you can really appreciate this feeling of isolation. 

The isolating sound and slow character study make for a slowly progressing movie.  It is something that I think will be polarizing to much of the audience, but I loved it.  The plot itself is interesting despite it being drawn out, and there are some odd sequences that didn't hit right.  There is a tragic scene towards the first third of the film that just seemed out of place, and a large part of the main story feels like it was unnecessary.  And this is especially off putting given how slowly the story progresses; perhaps the film could have felt a little tighter by cutting some of these scenes.  It feels like this could have been resolved with a few writing tweaks, but what you are left with is still a very interesting film experience. 

All that being said, Ad Astra is a slow burning near future space journey that will take you to the stars and beyond if you give it the time.  

Watch it

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