Ad Astra - B
Rated PG-13, 124 minutes
Well, it was bound to happen, you knew he'd eventually make it there. Brad Pitt has made most kinds of films, from action to drama to animated, but he hasn't made it space, until now with his new space thriller "Ad Astra," a well-acted, taut drama that isn't - no pun intended - Earth shattering, but is still solid entertainment.
Astronaut Roy McBride (Brad Pitt) travels to the outer edges of the solar system to find his missing father (Tommy Lee Jones) and unravel a mystery that threatens the survival of humans on Earth. His journey will uncover secrets that challenge the nature of human existence and its place in the cosmos.
"Ad Astra" (which, FYI is Latin for "to the stars") is directed and co-written by James Gray, who wrote and directed last year's fine drama "The Lost City of Z." "Astra" takes place in the near future, and it's up to Pitt's weary astronaut to go to Neptune to find his pioneering astronaut father (Jones, well-used here), who may be behind some weird stuff happening on Earth that's killing lots of people.
Pitt's believable, low-key turn, not to mention some tense action set pieces, make "Ad Astra" worth seeing. It's not as ground-breaking or as heady as "2001: A Space Odyssey" or the recent "Contact," but it's still worth a viewing. The second act is also a little shaky, a few elements of Gray's script is (most likely purposefully) murky, and some character motivations aren't entirely explored, but it comes together nicely in the end.
Oscar-winner Jones, in a small supporting part, is solid when he finally arrives on screen very late in the film (until then, you only see clips of him) and his scenes with Pitt, while very brief, also highlight the film. It's too bad his character is one of Gray's flaws, it's underwritten and much more could've been tapped into those pensive eyes and world-weary wrinkles, which physically works perfect for the part.
"The Martian" and "Gravity" did this thing better, but "Ad Astra" is entertaining enough, with some impressive photography (from Oscar-nominee Hoyte Van Hoytema, of "Dunkirk" fame), production values and visuals to keep you engaged. It won't rock your world, but it'll keep you moving for a couple of hours.