A spoiler-free ‘Ad Astra’ review

Mia DiLorenzo, page editor

Released on Sept. 20, ‘Ad Astra’ marks a departure from the typical science fiction thriller. Rather than being led by a riveting plotline, it is advanced by the individual journey of Roy McBride (Brad Pitt) and his tortured search for his abandoned father (Tommy Lee Jones). The film has some similarities to other sci-fi films of its kind: the cinematography resembling “The Martian” and “Interstellar” and an individual quest for something of personal value. Rather than returning a crew member or searching for a habitable planet, McBride attempts to relocate his father. 

What it lacked in the typical roller-coaster nature of action films, it made up for in both visual effects and the acting itselfPitt’s powerful performance as McBride elicited positive reactions from the audience, with some members stopping to comment on his excellent performance during the film. Throughout the feature, McBride would interrupt moments of solitude with powerful voice-over. While human interaction was limited, Pitt was able to command the screen and hold the attention of the viewer even when he was the only character on screen.

One of the most memorable aspects of the film, however, was the world that was created. Set in the somewhat distant future, the film shows citizens travelling to both the Moon and Mars via a commercial rocket, complete with hot towels for the voyage and an Earth-like airport on the Moon. The cinematography and visuals created were stunning and further build the fantastical world⁠—a detailed and vivid work of on-screen art. 

As McBride searches for his long-lost father, we see him grapple with the reality of his career vs. his personal life. His plummet into a psychological insanity driven by his father emulates the path that his father took and exposes humankind’s intrinsic need to explore. While the plotline may seem messy and unfocused at times, it is best to remember “Ad Astra” as a larger commentary on the idea of humankind’s perpetual quest to conquer rather than a textbook science fiction/action film.