Ad Astra

Review by Anthony Lowery. Brad Pitt stars in one of this year's most stunning and beautiful pictures.

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Ad Astra
*****

Review by Anthony Lowery

Release: DVD/Blu-ray December 17

Writer-director James Gray (We Own the Night) teams up with Christopher Nolan’s go-to cinematographer Hoyte Van Hoytema to make one of this year’s most stunning pictures; you won’t want to miss a single beat, not least because it’s consistently beautiful to look at. Like Nolan’s Interstellar, the Brad Pitt-starrer Ad Astra(Latin for ‘to the stars’) has stunning scope and finds its primary setting out of this world. 

Pitt plays Army Corps engineer and astronaut Roy McBride. Twenty years ago, Roy’s father H. Clifford McBride (a sensational if fleeting Tommy Lee Jones) went in search of proof of extraterrestrial life on Neptune on a one-way mission. Roy is now tasked with an assignment to investigate a mystery that threatens Earth, but while scouring the solar system he finds more than what he bargained for. 

For a space drama, the narrative here feels very close and personal – expertly anchored through our hero’s absorbing stream of consciousness. This closeness of story is captured through Hoyte’s fine camerawork: close-ups are frequent and offer stark contrast to the stunning shots of our expansive universe, providing perspective and provoking thoughts on our very own existence. 

Given the unlikely intimacy,Ad Astra’s defining (and perhaps proudest) feature is Pitt’s performance, which here is gentle, tender and quietly tantalising. We know exactly who Roy is, not just through the writing but also through the nuances in Pitt’s portrayal. He sinks into a character whose ease on the outside is to hide the suppressed chaos within. 

Ad Astrais focused, even faultless, filmmaking with enough excitable moments to maintain its perfect pace. Head ‘to the stars’ knowing that a bracing take on father/son dynamics may incite a tear or two along the way. 

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