Matthew McConaughey, Ryan Gosling and Matt Damon have all been there, now it’s Brad Pitt’s turn to suit up for a journey into the solar system. 

Pitt plays Roy McBride, a sombre astronaut who always keeps his cool – even when plummeting from low Earth orbit – and lives a life of solitude due to the hazards of the job.     

When an anti-matter surge originating from Neptune threatens the stability of the solar system, the source is identified as an exploration vessel that mysteriously vanished 30 years ago – captained by McBride’s father (Tommy Lee Jones), who may still be alive.

McBride is subsequently tasked with sending a message to his long lost dad, requiring a trip to a Martian outpost with a lunar stopover. Then it’s onwards towards Neptune and revelations that will rock McBride’s world, and perhaps save our own…

Director James Gray has always been fascinated by the male psyche and Ad Astra digs deep into McBride’s, with a running inner monologue speaking volumes about the character and his daddy issues – yes, this one of those films reliant on an irritating voiceover to provide the exposition.

The VFX are top notch, with serenely beautiful interplanetary vistas and a couple of tense action sequences punctuating the relentlessly melancholic mood. But while derivative of sci-fi films like Contact, Sunshine, Solaris and even Event Horizon, don’t go into Ad Astra expecting aliens or profound insight into humanity’s place in the cosmos.

This is Joseph Conrad’s Hearts of Darkness in space, where the emotional gulf between a father and son is as vast as the one between Earth and the outer planets. A measured and meditative science fiction film that’s as much a psychological journey as an interstellar one.

star-3In cinemas: September 19, 2019
Starring: Brad Pitt, Tommy Lee Jones, Ruth Negga
Directed by: James Gray