Directed by: James Gray
Written by: James Gray and Ethan Gross
Starring: Brad Pitt, Lisa Gay Hamilton, Tommy Lee Jones, Liv Tyler, Donald Sutherland
Reviewed by: Brad Williamson
*Trailer-level Spoilers Ahead*
Quick, name a movie with no useless scene. Bet you can’t, or at least that you struggle to do so. Even some of the greatest films ever made fail in this regard: 2001’s longer-than-necessary dialogue in the opening, Return of the King’s epilogue, The Matrix’s romance. But Ad Astra qualifies.
From the opening moment visually stunning and captivating, written and filmed so tightly you’d think it was a Cormac McCarthy story, so lean yet so marvelous and meticulous, brilliantly acted, exciting, sad, real, deep, hard to watch yet entertaining, important, self-contained, cohesive, superbly concluded, and scored with a true composer’s love, this film is good as science-fiction gets, good as cinema gets.
With at least half a dozen scenes that would each easily be the centerpiece of any normal film, glued together masterfully with an exciting and mysterious plot and amazing pacing, Ad Astra thrills, depresses, excites, and asks deep questions.
The true greatness of this film—other than everything—lies in its originality. It feels unlike anything before it. It has clearly been influenced by other films, books, and ideas, but the finished product explodes with crisp freshness and undeniable beauty.
If I have one issue with the film it’s that it concludes we’re alone in the universe. I’m torn about this because one thing science-fiction needs to be is brave, and this is among the boldest of conclusions for a science-fiction epic. But a large portion of me believes that this just cannot be the movie’s ultimate conclusion. And while it’s not—the movie has a multitude of powerful conclusions!—it is one which I have major issue with.
Still, it didn’t hurt the movie and in fact cued some amazing writing: “Dad, you didn’t. You proved we’re alone. Now let’s go home.”
If you want a deep movie, go see this. If you want a well-made and –acted movie with great visuals, go see it. If you like a good story, go see it. If you want a deep introspection on what it means to be space-faring, go see it. If you want to see Pitt at his very best, go see it. If you love science-fiction and crave a non-mainstream take, go see it. If you’ve ever enjoyed any movie or looked at the stars in wonder, go see it, for this is the rare film that will grant you that same wonder.