It is difficult to figure out the purposes behind Brad Pitt’s latest excursion into space. The visuals are reminiscent of Interstellar andhaving famed indie director James Gray writing the script and steering the ship has the potential for a modern version of 2001: A Space Odyssey. Then for casting to include Tommy Lee Jones and Donald Sutherland as veteran astronauts, things turn toward memories of Space Cowboys. All of this being said, it is difficult to discern what this film has to offer, which seems to be director James Gray's point.
Things open with astronaut Roy McBride (Pitt) going through a psychological profile as he prepares for his role in the space programme which sets the stage for the rest of the film. In the not too distant future, the earth is under threat from interplanetary surges and McBride is asked to undertake a mission to save the planet and in the process find his father. Clifford McBride (Jones) is hailed as a hero and pioneer in space exploration, sent to reach the outer solar system and discover intelligent life on the Lima project.
As Roy journeys through each step of the mission, he begins to discover various components of the programme and his father that changes the mission’s purpose. The stepping stone bases on the Moon and Mars prove to be new havens for humanity and they contain all of the best and worst that mankind has to offer. The junior McBride must work through his fatherless past and determine the meaning behind his involvement in the trip to the edge of the universe. Not even knowing if his father is still alive, Roy must come to terms with what he may find if he can make it to the Lima.
Ad Astra is a Latin expression that can mean ‘through hardship to the stars.’ Brad Pitt’s portrayal of Roy McBride manages to encapsulate this phrase and he owns the role. Even though he shares the screen with a vast array of talent, the whole story rests on his shoulders. Within the writing and performances there lies an underlying intensity that cannot be masked by the methodical method of storytelling. This is articulated best when the crew of his ship answers a distress call and they must confront the situation on the stranded space vessel.
James Gray’s film is an independent, art film wrapped up in the trappings of a blockbuster. Underneath the stunning visual effects, behind the award-winning acting talent and the most significant budget of his career hides a psychological drama of cosmic proportions. The exploration of the vast universe is at the heart of the story, but the real journey is travelling through the psychological experiences of Roy McBride. For those looking for an action-packed space adventure, this film will not fill that need. What Ad Astra does offer is an artistic study that takes a long journey to answer the questions of the frailty of humanity, the value of fatherhood and attempts to answer the question ‘are we alone in the universe?’
Reel Dialogue: The ties that bind children to their fathers
'Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord, the fruit of the womb a reward. Like arrows in the hand of a warrior are the children of one’s youth. Blessed is the man who fills his quiver with them! He shall not be put to shame when he speaks with his enemies in the gate.' Psalm 127:3-5
Ad Astra shows the inexplicable ties that bind a father and his child. Regardless of the time fathers may be away from their children for work or other things in life, the underlying need for the love and approval of a father remains. Men need to remember how important they are in the moulding of their offspring’s futures.
Children are indeed a blessing. It can be hard to remember this during the early morning feedings or the latest night car smash, but these incidental things should not diminish the value of the gift children are in our lives.
Fathers need to look at this opportunity as an honour and to be ‘all there’ when with our families. Some days are harder than others to do this. Thankfully the Bible gives us the instruction manual to help to mould our children and prayer provides the comfort to watch over them in all situations. Children need both quantity and quality time, but most importantly they need a father’s time and love. Have you hugged your child today?
"As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord" - Joshua 24:15
My wife and I saw Ad Astra yesterday, before reading this review. I really liked your review and found the movie to be quite lame and managed to send me off to sleep at one stage.
While it was very predictable and felt like other space movies, as a father I like your point about the importance of fathers even if none of us are perfect at it.
I love your work at the City Bible Forum, I am a regular listener via Podcast...keep up those conversations and consider running them in regional areas.