Borrowing elements from 2001: A Space Odyssey, sci-fi thriller Ad Astra is an imitate portrayal of a tormented astronaut, venturing to the ends of the galaxy in search of his long-lost father.
Helmed by Cannes Film Festival regular James Gray, the film stars Brad Pitt, Tommy Lee Jones, Ruth Negga, Liv Tyler, and Donald Sutherland. Shooting on location and using mostly practical sets, Ad Astra is undoubtedly one of the most realistic depictions of space travel we've seen so far.
While the film is set in the near future, the production design team made the right call by incorporating as many nostalgic items as possible from the golden era of Space Age in the 50s and 60s. The not-so-futuristic looking props make Brad Pitt’s character all the more relatable, infusing warmth into his nuanced performance.
However, it would’ve been much better to cast a younger actor, as there would’ve been a more obvious generational gap and better dynamics between Pitt and his onscreen father Tommy Lee Jones - who, by the way, deserves far more screen time than he got. Pitt, who turns 56 in a few months, looked more like an aging father himself rather than a fresh-faced rookie seeking to uncover what had become of his father.
As for sound effects, the overuse of low frequency sounds and voiceover were slightly distracting at times, further dampening a film that already lacks the element of surprise. While the visuals and the pace of the film were great in the beginning, there was an obvious dip in the second half, and the story just dragged on for what seemed like an eternity.
The film should’ve stopped just before Pitt’s character, Roy, reaches Neptune, whereafter the plot just became almost entirely predicatable and redundant. Granted, it’s a film and not a book, but sometimes it’s best to leave some room for imagination.