‘Ad Astra’ is an immersive, thematically deep drama


Brad Pitt stars as Roy McBride, an astronaut who travels to the deep Solar System is search of his father who went missing over 20 years prior. Ad Astra/Fox Movies website photo

“Ad Astra” is a compelling sci-fi drama with stunning visuals, a cohesive narrative and a great performance from Brad Pitt.

Clifford McBride (Tommy Lee Jones) leads a voyage called the “Lima Project” into space in search of intelligent life. However, the ship and its crew disappear and are never heard from again. Three decades later, his son Roy McBride (Brad Pitt) learns that his father may still be alive. This is revealed when it is discovered that the power surges attacking Earth, one of which almost killed Roy, have been traced back to the Lima Project. Now, Roy sets out to the outer rim of the solar system in hopes of finding his father and destroying the technology threatening humanity.

On a technical level, “Ad Astra” is a masterpiece. The cinematography and special effects created stunning, visually compelling scenes. On top of that, the set design and color schemes complimented the cinematography in creating aesthetically pleasing visuals.

The sound editing and mixing delivered audio so pristine that there were moments where I truly felt immersed in the film as if I, too, was on this voyage with Roy.

Because of how much effort and attention went into the production of the technical elements of this film, “Ad Astra” must be seen in theaters to get the full visual and audio experience.

As far as performances go, Jones portrays Clifford with an intense complexity. Jones’ character’s obsession with his mission and subsequent descent into madness is the primary focus on the film, though he does not have as much screen time as Pitt. In the short amount of time that we do see Jones, it’s clear that his ability to deliver a compelling performance is a powerful as ever.

Pitt’s performance as Roy was incredible. Though I wouldn’t say this performance is the best out of his considerable discography, it is an exceptional one nonetheless. While I enjoyed his performance in Tarantino’s “Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood,” Pitt’s performance in “Ad Astra” is absolutely a step up from “Hollywood,” both in dialogue and physical presence. I think it also helps that “Ad Astra” is a film with superior writing and a thorough, cohesive narrative.

Pitt’s ability to capture the emotions of a man so used to focusing solely on his work suddenly confronted by his no-longer-absent father emphasizes Pitt’s range as an actor.


The most striking thing about this film is how much it reminded me of the Joseph Conrad novel, “Heart of Darkness.” There are uncanny parallels between the two. Both “Ad Astra” and “Heart of Darkness” are narrated stories about a man going on a voyage deep into remote areas in search of another man who has gone “mad.” Also, both the novel and film have overarching themes of humanity, mortality and righteousness.

Roy, after confronting his father, questions whether focusing all of his energy into his career as an astronaut is a good thing or if he is heading down a similar road as his father.

I’m not saying using the plot of “Heart of Darkness’” to create a movie is a bad thing. In fact; I think “Heart of Darkness” is a perfect source of a cinematic retelling, especially when done as masterfully as in “Ad Astra.”


With its depth, pristine performances and technical execution, “Ad Astra” is an exceptional film that has quickly become one of my favorites of the year.

There are a plethora of thematic elements of this film that, I think, require multiple viewings to fully grasp. This is a good thing in my opinion.

“Ad Astra” is a must-see. I look forward to watching it again.

Rating: 4/5 stars

Angel Ortega can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter @AngelOrtegaNews