Monday, February 3, 2020

Movie with Abe: Ad Astra

Ad Astra
Directed by James Gray
Released September 20, 2019

There are many different type of space movies. Some feature large interplanetary conflicts complete with many battle scenes and alien species. Others begin on Earth and follow astronauts and other explorers as they venture out either in search of a last hope for saving mankind or merely to try to discover the unknown. The specifics of the science aren’t necessarily important as long as the overarching story is appealing and solid. Those seeking action and excitement won’t always find that in some of the quieter, more contemplative science fiction that takes a step back to marvel at the vastness of space and all the possibilities – good and bad – that come with it.

Roy McBride (Brad Pitt) is an astronaut who, after nearly being killed in a power surge, is sent on a mission to attempt to stop this wave of deadly surges that threatens the entire planet and solar system. He learns that his father, H. Clifford McBride (Tommy Lee Jones), may not have died sixteen years earlier while on a mission of his own as Roy always believed. Roy travels with Colonel Pruitt (Donald Sutherland) to the Moon and must endure many threats as he nears his ultimate destination, where he will transmit a message to his father that everyone hopes he will be able to hear.

This film comes from director James Gray, whose last project was “The Lost City of Z,” which followed the hunt for an ancient civilization in South America. It definitely qualifies as low-key, utilizing sufficient visual effects but opting to focus in on the experience of its central character in a manner reminiscent of the recent “First Man.” It might also well be compared to some of the quieter, subtler moments of “Interstellar” with the tone and pacing of “Annihilation” and “Moon.” It doesn’t completely feel like its own movie in its own universe, but its similarities to other projects make it moderately accessible.

Pitt is on track to win his first Oscar for “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood,” and this film, released just two months later, represents a chance for him to hone a different kind of performance. It’s not his most stirring turn, but it works well enough. This film represents an expected science fiction endeavor, one that doesn’t tread surprising new ground but performs ably in probing the risks of ambition and the dangers, both internal and external, of being cut off from civilization for too long.


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