“Ad Astra” A Return to Dangerous Filmmaking

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Now this was an interesting film! I say that not because of spectacular special effects, or “sexy” actors, but rather because there was a genuine throwback to an era where films weren’t afraid to take a chance.

This film harkens back to films such as 2001: A Space Odyssey or Silent Running. There is a real effort to take the viewer through the psychological ins-and-outs of Roy McBride (the character played by Brad Pitt) as she tries to fight his way through years of psychological damage done by his father, the world renowned astronaut H. Clifford McBride played by the amazingly subtle Tommy Lee Jones.

Roy is an on point astronaut with a career that stands on its own merits. He has the respect of his peers as well as his superiors. However, we do see really on that he struggles with his own life, his personal life. He is detached, distant, unable to unlock his own emotions, and we are shown how this effects things around him.
The thing is, is that he is a dutiful soldier with his attention solely on his mission, his career.
It is because of this that he is selected for this top secret mission, it, at least, that is what he is thinking. It turns out that his father, whom her thought has long passed might still be alive and might be wreaking havoc with Earth.
It’s because of this that it becomes necessary to send Roy up to see if, 1) how father is alive, and 2) if he is alive, to stop him.¬†One of the elements of this movie that stuff out the most was use of sounds and music. There was a real throwback to, what sounded to me like, the experimental time of the 70’s. There seemed to be a real freedom to explore silence, abandonment, and loneliness. I loved the fact that this film had the courage to NOT go the typical route. I loved this because it allowed one to connect on another level with the character of Roy. It allowed us to, in a way, to, perhaps, enter that hidden fortress of emotions that was just starting to crack.
Now don’t get me wrong, this is not just a film about a psychological journey there were plenty of elements, and situations that come up that will satisfy the need for action, however I will say this that these scenes are far from gratuitous. These scenes come as not just physical attacks, by also as attacks on his linear introspection.
I also appreciated, going back to the music, that they choose not to go the typical Hollywood route and incorporate hard Rock, or ridiculous “soaring” classical music. They stuck with eclectic sounds and tones that not only enhanced these moments, but made one feel uncomfortable and alone, because you knew that that there was real danger here and with the lack of intense Hollywood music one could feel the if one dies out here in space you would truly be alone, abandoned.
Now, of course, the journey to find his father is fraught with it’s own troubles. There are mechanical issues, arguments amongst the different crews, the government not telling the whole truth, but the biggest obstacle for Roy is, of course, meeting his father for the first time in decades. This is where you can see how the writers and actors were able to work together to create an intense yet tender moment. A moment that has Roy having to settle accounts with his father, and vice versa.
I have to say that I thoroughly enjoyed this film especially it’s melding of many different elements that helped us really connect with Roy and his specific journey.