Ad Astra is the second movie this weekend that I saw that was receiving rave reviews but did not reach those expectations for me. I did not like Hustlers, and Ad Astra, while I liked it more than Hustlers, was not as brilliant as I thought it would be.
Now, having said that, I will state that there were two magnificent parts of the film. One was the special effects. This film looked beautiful. And the second was Brad Pitt, who delivered a special, understated and subtle performance in the movie.
Brad Pitt played Roy McBride, an astronaut who was recruited by the government to fly to Mars and attempt to contact Roy’s father H. Clifford McBride (Tommy Lee Jones), a legend who was involved in a project searching for intelligent life in the universe. The project was causing problems back on earth called The Surge and the government wanted Roy to try and appeal to his father, whom Roy believed was dead for years.
Brad Pitt played Roy as if he were damaged goods, with a deep seeded anger that he shoved down, preventing him from having a life worth living. Pitt is great in this movie and his performance was nuanced and compelling.
However, the film is slow through most of the run time. It feels long and there are distinctly dull moments that work as character points, but can really drag out. By the time they get to Tommy Lee Jones, a lot of the steam had been let out of the plot.
However, there was an epic scene involving space monkeys that I was just not sure how it happened. Maybe I missed something with that but the monkeys were a sudden and unexpected shock in an otherwise slow burn. (I really did not understand why the monkeys were there. I wonder if I missed a reference)
As I mentioned, the look of the movie is amazing. I never once wondered about something looking CGI. I was completely enthralled by the effects and I bought them completely. There may have been some moments where I was not sure if what they did would work (and…monkeys of course) but it never looked wrong. I also saw the film in IMAX which made it look all the better.
Most of the cast was pretty well wasted outside of Pitt and Jones. Ruth Negga was just there. Donald Sutherland seemed as if he was going to be more important than he was. I did not even realize Liv Tyler was in the movie until I saw her on the credits afterwards.
When there were good scenes, they really hit well. It just was mixed in with too many scenes lacking pace or intensity. Still, I think this was the best film of the weekend for me and I would recommend it, if for nothing else, but Brad Pitt’s performance and the wonderful CGI.