Per Ardua Ad Astra

Ad Astra

Starring Brad Pitt, Tommy Lee Jones and Donald Sutherland

Rated M

Ad Astra is a deeply-affecting, atmospheric and superbly-paced science fiction character drama in the meditative tradition of 2001: A Space Odyssey and Solaris.

Veteran astronaut Roy McBride (Brad Pitt) must travel to the edge of the solar system to find his lost father and prevent a potentially world-ending catastrophe.

The peril, both physical and bureaucratic, steadily escalates, but so does the isolation. As Roy ventures farther into the solar system, the distractions and people around him dwindle, and the sparse sound design and claustrophobic settings reflect his growing loneliness. Even across such vast interplanetary distances, the drama scales down and grows ever more personal, elegantly exploring themes of emotional repression and a child’s desperation to reconcile with his family.

The world-building is subtle but compelling, depicting a colonised cosmos swamped by corporate franchises and riddled with pirates and warring factions.

The only significant problem is Pitt’s persistent narration. His commentary describes moods and perspectives that are evident from the imagery and atmosphere of the scene, which feels patronising (and is reminiscent of Harrison Ford’s much-derided narration in the theatrical cut of Blade Runner).

Ad Astra is an enthralling, poignant drama that deftly balances cosmic scope with an intimate personal focus.