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AD ASTRA

SYNOPSIS:
Astronaut Roy McBride (Brad Pitt) undertakes a mission across an unforgiving solar system, to uncover the truth about his missing astronaut father (Tommy Lee Jones) and the doomed expedition that now, 30 years later, threatens the universe.

Review by Louise Keller:
The relationship between father and son is the nucleus of this potent drama in which the vast scale of the universe juxtaposes the intangible complexities of the heart. The scale is ginormous, extending to the outer limits of the universe; the relationship contracts into the innermost emotional core. This is a film that is about the big and the small.

Set on the infinite backdrop of the universe, James Gray's film is a cinematic and moody experience, made personal by the internal way the story is told. Much is shot in tight close up, with Brad Pitt's handsome features filling the entire screen and his voice-over narration providing his thoughts and state of mind. In a contained, sublime performance, Pitt takes us into the mind of the outwardly calm astronaut Roy McBride, whose rage, anger and hurt are buried deep within. The title is a Latin phrase that means 'to the stars', and it is to the stars that we are drawn in this intelligent and involving action film for the discerning.

In a striking and thrilling opening sequence, Roy tumbles from a space antenna following a power surge. The resulting skydive is a tumultuous thrill-spill in which we wait with baited breath - until the parachute releases. We learn a lot about Roy. He is calm under pressure. We watch as he regularly undertakes psychological evaluation, which repeatedly confirms his control and that his pulse rate never exceeds 80bpm.

The classified mission involves the stability of the solar system and the power surge that comes as a result of the Lima Project years ago. The project was led by Roy's decorated astronaut father Clifford McBride (Tommy Lee Jones), who disappeared and was never heard of again. Roy's purpose is to communicate with his father, who is thought to be still alive. Is Roy destined to become his father? Or pay the sins of his father? Or can he be released from his life-long anguish about his father? Donald Sutherland plays the astronaut who worked with Clifford and can't let go.

The exposition flows as the plotlines progress and the story objectives meet their target. Watch for the key scenes between Pitt and Lee Jones, when the essence of their relationship comes into focus. The tears that trickle from Pitt's baby blues flow with sincerity - like the release of pain. Lee Jones is fine as the astronaut forever driven by his quest, while Liv Tyler is perfect as Roy's long lost love.

The circular nature of the exposition and the way the film's resolution comes into being is well conceived and executed. We note that the results of the regular psychological evaluations may mean nothing - or everything.

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CRITICAL COUNT
Favourable: 1
Unfavourable: 0
Mixed: 0

AD ASTRA (M)
(US, China, Brazil, 2019)

CAST: Brad Pitt, Liv Tyler, Tommy Lee Jones, Donald Sutherland, John Ortiz, Kimberly Elise, Ruth Negga

PRODUCER: Arnon Milchan, Yaris Milchan, Brad Pitt

DIRECTOR: James Gray

SCRIPT: James Gray, Ethan Gross

CINEMATOGRAPHER: Hoyte VanHoytema

EDITOR: John Axelrad, Lee Haugen

MUSIC: Max Richter

PRODUCTION DESIGN: Kevin Thompson

RUNNING TIME: 122 minutes

AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: 20th Century Fox

AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: September 12, 2019







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