"Brad Pitt doesn't think he should win an Oscar for Ad Astra and after seeing it, I agree."

It was only a matter of time before someone made a movie that revolved around solely showcasing Brad Pitt’s aesthetically pleasing face.

And while spending quality time with Pitt’s features is not the main plot point of new film Ad Astra, it does make up a healthy chunk of the run time, along with a sombre storyline that is visually stunning if slowly paced as it showcases the vast emptiness of space.

In Ad Astra, Brad Pitt plays Roy McBride, an astronaut who is known for his unflinching nature, with his bosses visually impressed while learning that his heart rate never spikes, even during the most life-threatening of disasters.

Ad Astra has been billed as a science-fiction film but it’s much more grounded in realism compared to other blockbusters of that nature, so don’t be expecting any wild futuristic costumes or wisecracking alien creatures here.

Instead, the events of the film take place in the near future where the human race have managed to set up shop on the moon and Mars.

The moon very much has the feel of a desolate tourist trap, upon entry travellers are greeted with a slew of fast-food restaurants and junky chain stores and overall it’s all pretty bleak. Further afield on the moon, different countries battle it out over territory and supplies as resources are in short supply.

"It was only a matter of time before someone made a movie that revolved around solely showcasing Brad Pitt's aesthetically pleasing face." Source: 20th Centuary Fox.

The action kicks off in the opening scene of the movie when Roy is working away at the top of an immense space antenna, a piece of technological scaffolding so high that it reaches right up from the earth into the outer void.

In one of the most visually stunning moments of the film, a sudden and mysterious power surge hits the antenna and in a fist-clenching action sequence, it sends Roy and his fellow astronauts plummeting to the earth below.


If you're living with a fear of heights, you'll feel the need to shut your eyes at this moment and even if you're not, you'll be left feeling a little queasy.

In an unsurprising turn of events, Roy survives the fall (thanks to the Brad Pitt of it all) and is then pulled into a covert meeting where he is informed that he must travel to Neptune to hunt down his father, a famous astronaut named Clifford McBride (Tommy Lee Jones).

For the last 30 years Roy, along with the rest of the world, believed Clifford to be dead after he set out on Earth’s first voyage into deep space on a mission known as the Lima Project. Now, he is thought to be the source of the mysterious power surges that are threatening to destroy the world.

The cast of Ad Astra is swimming with famous faces. Donald Sutherland adds an air of subdued danger to Roy's journey as a retired colleague of Clifford's and Ruth Negga makes a brief but intense cameo as a Mars native whose parents were working on the doomed Lima Project.

But mostly this is Pitt's show, and his character is mostly alone on-screen against the bleakness of space.

Roy delivers very little dialogue in the movie, his facial expression barely shifts from neutral in the tensest moments and aside from flashbacks of his ex-wife Eve (Liv Tyler), he has very little emotional reaction to the other characters he encounters on his journey.

This is all explained by the fact that Roy has been trained to expertly compress and compartmentalise his emotions and while it's an interesting storytelling device, it does make it hard for the audience to feel any kind of emotional connection to his journey or his fate.

It's a bold move to take the epic story that is presented in Ad Astra and then present it in such a small and personal way. The result is that the movie itself begins to feel a little like space, bleak and endless.

In a recent interview with Entertainment Weekly, Brad Pitt said that he would not be campaigning for an Oscar for Ad Astra even though leading the space epic, coupled with his stand-out turn in Once Upon A Time In Hollywood has perfectly set him up to be a big player in awards season.

But after seeing Ad Astra, I have to agree with Pitt that this should not be his Oscar's play.

For all it's clever social commentary and technical brilliance, Ad Astra lacks heart and is, therefore, a thoroughly passable yet forgettable film that will be lost in the vast void filled with more impressive space films.

Ad Astra is now playing in cinemas Australia-wide. It is rated M.

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