Astronaut Roy McBride (Brad Pitt) travels to the outer edges of the solar system to find his missing father and unravel a mystery that threatens the survival of our planet.
***Attention: Spoiler Alert. Details contained within this review could ruin the ending or parts of the movie for you. You’ve been warned. Read with caution…
“Ad Astra is a lovely, sincere and sometimes dopey confessional about fathers and sons, love and loss that takes the shape of a far out if deeply inward trip.” – Manohla Dargis, The NYTimes
“Existential but also intimate, Ad Astra is a stunning, sensitive exploration of the space left by an absent parent — and the infinite void of actual space.” – John Nugent, Empire
“At heart, it’s a short story set in space, decorated with major FX (the double rings of the evanescent blue Neptune are its most memorable image), held together by Pitt’s stalwart presence.” – Owen Gleiberman, Variety
“Ad Astra takes a visually thrilling journey through the vast reaches of space while charting an ambitious course for the heart of the bond between parent and child.” – Critics Consensus, RottenTomatoes
Elon Musk isn’t the only guy thinking about frequent travel to the moon and back. It’s a very real thing. In Ad Astra, it’s almost everyday common life. Roy McBride (Brad Pitt) makes that very evident in the first opening scenes.
But Ad Astra is just about moon travel. Nor is it just about space travel. If we had to summarize it into one word, we interpret the movie to be about “Hope” – Hopes & Dreams of just finding that extra something that you think will make your life that much more meaningful. Because without, you think your life is worthless.
There are multiple characters in the movie that spend a lifetime searching and searching for that “extra something.” Roy McBride’s father, Clifford McBride (played by Tommy Lee Jones) spends an exorbitant amount of time throughout multiple galaxies trying to find alternative forms of life. And for what? No one really knows. Even he himself, Clifford McBride doesn’t. But yet it keeps him going. His character searches endlessly and will stop at nothing until he finds it. It’s almost irrational, what lengths his character will through to find it.
At home, back on Earth, he once started a life that he saw wasn’t for him. Clifford at one point explains to his son Roy (played by Brad Pitt), “…you mean back on Earth? There’s nothing for there. I never gave a damn about any of your useless ideas. Nor your mother’s. Out here, this is where life is…”
Roy appears dumb-founded by his father’s statements, but it’s almost as though he also understands very well at the same time. Because Roy appears to be searching for the same thing, just in a different realm. He goes to the ends of the Earth and beyond to find his father as part of the mission that’s assigned to him. But he isn’t just looking for his father. He’s looking for so much more. He’s looking for meaning, for explanation, for answers to all the emotions that he’s covered up and pushed to the back of the attic all these years.
Of course, throughout the movie, while all of this is going on, it’s implied that an almost seemingly endless amount of time has passed. Time and Space travel eludes me. I’m no scientist or physicist. I understand zero about how time and space travel affect each other. What do you see in the movie though, is wearing-character change, just in the travel to get from one place to another. In a sense, you can feel how the characters just want their Time back. What’s interesting to see is just how far and wide each character will go to go and get it back. There’s a endless search to find hope in something that will give your life meaning. But there’s also an endless search to get back Time, in a way. So much time passes in search of Hope, that you can feel how each character is almost searching for a way to get back all the time that has passed.
All in all, Ad Astra is a great story told by multiple characters. It’s not necessarily a revolutionary new idea, nor is it a story that’s never been told before. We all have these stories. Go talk to some old folks on the train or at an old folks’ home. They’ll tell you. They have lots of stories. “If they could go back and turn back the ‘hands of time’, etc.” It’s a story that buried deep within us all, regardless of age. And we think that’s why this film resonates so well with such a broad audience.