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••• The International Writers Magazine - Our 20th Year: Film

Ad Astra
Directed by James Gray
Starring Brad Pitt, Tommy Lee Jones, Ruth Neggar,
Donald Sutherland
• Sam Hawksmoor

Ad Astra

This deep space journey is akin to a spiritual journey and is a wonderful antidote to other space movies where everything is about action and male or female testosterone. 

Brad Pitt is an astronaut, but in a nice little twist at the beginning is actually a repairman on a space station that is tethered to earth.  It comes under attack from a deep space pulse that is wreaking havoc in Earth and other parts of the solar system. Brad falls to earth in one of these pulse attacks and when in recovery is recruited for a mission to Mars to make contact with a lost space mission, that they believe is connected to these mysterious anti-matter pulses.

The anti-matter is the McGuffin in this story; the real adventure is Brad searching for his father, the seeker of other beings, who clearly has gone mad in deep space.

There is fun to be had when he reaches the moon and it looks a lot like the shopping mall under Grand Central station complete with a Subway, only more tacky.  The Moon even has evil pirates who try to grab what they can and for some reason the US Spaceforce can’t seem to provide protection for. 

Brad is then on his way to Mars to broadcast an appeal to his renegade dad to make contact.  All the time his mental health is being monitored and this is a worrisome trend that will no doubt come to affect all of us in future.

Brad gives a very strong, stoic performance as a man struggling to repress all emotion – even when it comes to making contact with a man he believes has been dead for most of his life. He is full of regrets for a failed relationship and clearly has been trying all his life to measure up to his long gone hero father.

No need to tell more.  The details of space travel are done with skill, mundane, even, in a future when all of this is very routine.  Donald Sutherland pops up as a living fossil – a former colleague of his father, Liv Tyler appears without a speaking role in a huge coat to make us wonder if she is channeling Mamma Cass and Tommy Lee Jones is so old you can’t believe he was ever allowed to lead any space missions ever.

The film is totally absorbing, emotionally engaging and thoughtful drama. Well worth seeing and don’t be upset about all those flocking to see Downton Abbey in your local, Ad Astra is definitely the one you should be watching instead.

© Sam Hawksmoor - September 24th 2019
author of J&K 4Ever -
Young love in a post-apocalypse

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