Ad Astra Review: Brad Pitt Soars in This Sci-Fi Thriller

“What is happening out there is a crisis of unknown magnitude and we’re counting on you to help us find him. Are you with us?” asks Lieutenant General Rivas (John Ortiz). “Yes, I am sir,” answers Major Roy McBride (Brad Pitt) who’s been chosen to try to make contact with his father, believed to be dead, in the sci-fi thriller, Ad Astra.

After surviving a horrific event, astronaut Roy McBride is selected for a top-secret mission. Powerful and deadly releases of antimatter are threatening to destroy the solar system. The antimatter seems to be coming from the last known coordinates of the Lima Project, a mission to find life on the outer edge of the solar system headed by Clifford McBride, Roy’s father.

16 years ago all contact from the Lima Project went dark and everyone, including Roy’s dad, were believed to have died. Now the top brass at Space Command believe Clifford (Tommy Lee Jones) could be behind the deadly surges. In order to provide answers and save the world, Roy’s tasked with traveling across a dangerous solar system to try to make contact with his father. Roy must find a way to stop the deadly surges by any means necessary.

Captivating and intriguing, Ad Astra is a space epic that focuses more on the space between people and relationships than the space between the planets and stars. It’s 2001: A Space Odyssey meets Apocalypse Now, an impressive film with a standout performance by its star, Brad Pitt.

Pitt delivers his career-best performance as astronaut Roy McBride who ends up questioning everything he believes about his father and how to live life while on this highly dangerous mission. Pitt’s voice-over dialogue lets the audience know exactly what Roy’s really thinking and feeling while his carefully controlled appearance masks his concerns and doubts to those around him. Pitt subtly displays Roy’s emotions of fear, regret, and anger while on the journey. It’s a truly a superb performance.

Cinematographer Hoyte Van Hoytema does an outstanding job and Ad Astra is visually breathtaking. The opening sequence with Roy on the space antenna and the surge attack is mesmerizing and thrilling. It’s a film that should be seen in IMAX to experience the full effect of the craftsmanship of the filmmaker.

One of the few weaknesses of Ad Astra is its pacing, most notably in the third act which becomes ponderous and tedious. It slows to a crawl and the surprise is predictable.

Still, with Pitt’s terrific performance and its captivating visuals, Ad Astra is an emotional and psychological space epic worth the journey.


MPAA Rating: PG-13 (for some violence and bloody images, and for brief strong language)

Running Time: 124 minutes

Release Date: September 20, 2019

Directed By: James Grey

Studio: 20th Century Fox