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Overshadowed by “Downton Abbey,” James Gray’s “Ad Astra” fell short at the box office with a $19.2 million debut but measures up to an unusual delight. The film will give the audience a blend of Sandra Bullock’s lonely journey in “Gravity” and Matthew McConaughey’s emotional adventure in “Interstellar.” Brad Pitt stars in this futuristic space cowboy movie that explores a distant relationship between father and son. You’ll love the visuals, praise the acting, and empathize with the plot. 

“Ad Astra” is set in the future where there are commercial flights to the Moon, and visitors can grab a bite of Subway after their long trip. It tells the story of Roy McBride (Brad Pitt) who travels to the stars to find his lost father Clifford McBride (Tommy Lee Jones). Clifford and his crew for The Lima Project journeyed far in the solar system 30 years ago in hopes to find other intelligent life. They managed to arrive at Neptune but never returned to Earth. 

Roy entered his adolescence without his father and followed after his footsteps by becoming an astronaut. He has impressive control over his heart rate and does not allow it to reach over 80 beats per minute. This showed higher-ranking officials that he could control his emotions and flawlessly pass his routine psych evaluations. 

The first look at Roy’s expert skill occurs in earlier scenes where he works on a tower that’s hit by a power surge from a location far in the solar system. This attack sends Roy plunging to the Earth, and he miraculously survives. Space Command identifies that the power surge originated from somewhere near Neptune. This leads them to believe that Clifford may still be alive. Roy then embarks on a long journey to Neptune to hopefully reconnect with his lost father and save the solar system from further power surge disasters.

Pitt makes a comeback in “Ad Astra” with his beautiful, unexpressive Roy. He delivers a captivating performance with little emotion. Pitt brings life to Roy’s loneliness. Listening to Roy’s stream of consciousness allowed the audience to understand what was happening in his head, while his physical presence maintained perfect composure. Rarely does the viewer see Roy’s persona break, and it provides emphasis to the degree in which he was feeling. 

The plot is overall simple but sweet, maybe a little slow. The mission is easy to understand, and there is little rocket science jargon to confuse the audience. It randomly shows action-packed scenes and unless you catch the one line that explains why it happened, you’re lost. 

It is an odd experience watching “Ad Astra.” Roy’s narration throughout the film provokes emotional and psychological reactions. Action scenes excited the eyes but the narration stimulated the mind. What was perceived to be the main focus of the film, the mission to reach Roy’s father, and prevent further power surges, was only the journey Roy needed to take for self-examination. The adventure was not in space but in Roy’s psyche.

Watch “Ad Astra” for its tender storyline and appreciate it for Brad Pitt’s return.

 

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