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Movie ReviewsAd Astra Double Take Review

Kielan EllisSeptember 19, 201959/100
Starring
Brad Pitt, Tommy Lee Jones, Ruth Negga
Writers
James Gray, Ethan Gross
Director
James Gray
Rating
PG (Canada), PG-13 (United States)
Running Time
122 minutes
Release Date
September 20th, 2019
Overall Score
Rating Overview
Kielan
62%
Dan
57%
Rating Summary
Kielan: Ad Astra functions well as a compelling pulpy space action thriller, and fails amongst all the “maturity” it supposedly holds. Dan: Ad Astra will definitely work for a certain crowd, but it's just a bit too jumbled and rushed to be in the ranks of Gray's best.

You know what they say – the more, the merrier! In an effort to change things up a bit, this review for Ad Astra is a double take review – with two different capsule reviews from different writers on the same film.

Review by: Kielan Ellis

Ad Astra is a bit of a conundrum. The film truly fails in many regards it attempts to excel in, but also pushes boundaries in others. It’s twisted, confusing, and on the nose in an all too intentional sort of way, but in the end it feels like another somewhat forgettable sci-fi flick that’s trying to hard to mean something.

To start with the word on everyone’s lips at the moment, Pitt does well here with Ad Astra, giving one of his more measured performances in recent memory as an astronaut with a lot of issues to resolve and very little motivation to solve them – much like the film regarding much of its plot. He does well, but there is a far superior Pitt performance this year in Once Upon a Time in Hollywood.

The effects within Ad Astra are truly outstanding, and possibly the highlight of the film. It would be an absolute upset if this film doesn’t clean up the technical categories of this year’s award season as it draws near. The story, as well, is an interesting and captivating one, even if it does get to close to nearly being a beat for beat remake of Apocalypse Now, but in space. Without spoiling anything, there is a very intense albeit absurd sequence near the middle because of how similar it is to a sequence in Apocalypse Now.

However, the direction seems to be the focus of Ad Astra. Gray seems to want to create such a compelling universe that he forgets to write an interesting character. Pitt somewhat meanders through the film, with muttered narration marking his thought process in seemingly more and more “poetic” fashions, but poetic narration doesn’t always match with the action on screen.

The film does do a good job at presenting a very realistic look at what space travel in the future could look like, which makes this worth a watch just for the compelling scientific realism, but overall lacks in almost every department including the father son dynamic of the film which feels somewhat glossed over and uninteresting. 


Review by: Daniel Azbel

Those who have seen the works of James Gray should know that his work is quite challenging, and his works from The Lost City of Z to The Immigrant have garnered quite divisive takes. With his new film, Ad Astra, Gray continues that trend with this slow burn, character study that is quite unlike the other star-driven space travel films we’ve seen as of late. This is more a film about a troubled relationship than one about space travel, which leads to as much of its cons as its pros.

From the very first frame, you can tell that Ad Astra isn’t going to be your traditional studio fare. It’s a character study first and foremost, but it’s presented in a jarringly abstract way that’s quite difficult to get behind. Gray writes this in a way that has Pitt’s character quite underdeveloped, but simultaneously throws so much side information at you that really gets you lost in it all. This has so many unique and fascinating ideas that are quite admirable, but at the same time, are presented in way too large of a quantity for a two hour film. Some are underutilized while others are merely stated and forgotten.

In the end, Ad Astra is a very niche film, and it’s a shock that this is a wide release film by 20th Century Fox considering how anti-mainstream it truly is.

*still courtesy of 20th Century Fox*


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Follow Daniel Azbel on twitter @daniel_azbel and on letterboxd @danthemovieman.

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