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Brad Pitts space movie goes to where no space movie was before.



  Brad Pitt in full astronaut gear as Roy McBride at Ad Astra

Brad Pitt as Roy McBride at Ad Astra

Francois Duhamel – © Twentieth Century Fox

When Brad Pitt flies to the moon as an astronaut Roy McBride in James Gray's elegant space epic Ad Astra he takes on Virgin Atlantic. Although the company logo looks similar, an integrated ceiling and pillow packaging costs $ 125 at the time the film does not appear in the near future. On the lunar base on which Roy's commercial flight lands, there is also an Applebee, a subway, and other familiar elements of the landscape of capitalism of the 21st century. These brand names remain uncommented, mere background details in the dense network of a story that combines intense action sequences with long stretches of almost quiet cockpit loneliness – we'll instantly get to the chase with the moon buggy. But the inclusion of these well-known logos lends this sometimes-driving abstract film a foundation in the recognizable world, not to mention a welcome pinch of humor.

Many of the auteur-powered space exploration legends of the last decade – Gravity First Man Interstellar The Martian – have focused on the loneliness of the single astronaut, from all earthly sources of comfort and convenience Meaning are cut off and forced to reinvent life from scratch in a place where there is no reason ; where is moral and gravitational above is below and below is above. Ryan Gosling's existentially impulsive Neil Armstrong, Sandra Bullock's lonely space station survivor – Destruction of the Disaster, Matt Damon's left-behind scientist sowing his potatoes in the red marshes: all these were movie stars in space in the same tradition as Pitts Roy McBride, the also provides a carefree voice-over reminiscent of the older sci-fi classic Blade Runner . The rarefied states of movie star and cosmic loneliness go hand in hand in a natural way. The hyper-recognizability of world-famous faces under these spherical helmets is part of what makes their predicament so recognizable: if Brad Pitt can get lost in space, anyone can.

In most of these films, too, the journey to the outside is accompanied by an equal and opposite journey inward. The protagonists trace distances barely comprehensible to the human mind and survive under unimaginable (and probably scientifically impossible) conditions to restore either a loved one or the truth of a past relationship. The survival of the planet is a necessary but insufficient reason to make it act. In the case of Ad Astra the immediate cause of Roy's journey lies in the mysterious bursts of energy that come from near Neptune, endangering life on Earth. The death toll on the planet caused by the waves is already over 43,000, according to a brief message, a number that would shame many sci-fi blockbusters. But Roy McBride also has unresolved family issues to solve, and it has been made clear from the beginning that these two issues – the survival of the earth, Roy's patrick – are not fundamentally separate.

The father in question, H. Clifford McBride (Tommy Lee Jones), is a legendary scientist and space explorer who disappeared decades ago on a mission classified to obliterate Roy's first leg of his Neptune voyage , Donald Sutherland, an old friend of Clifford's, who is charged with mentoring his son, gives a curvaceous explanation of the possible connection between the fate of the older McBride and the energy explosions that now threaten the solar system. But the main purpose of this set-up is to get Roy into space as fast as possible, where he drags on most of the movie, rides past amazing cosmic glasses, thinks with a laconic voice, and occasionally battles rabid space caverns.

I do not want to take a mocking tone when I describe a film that works for most of its two. In a run of two hours and a minute, I watched in mesmerized enthusiasm. Especially seen in IMAX, Ad Astra filmed by the great Dutch-Swedish cinematographer Hoyte van Hoytema (who also filmed Interstellar ) is itself a stunning cosmic spectacle. Without the use of 3-D, the camera seems to give an impression of infinite depth, often returning to long settings that emphasize the minuteness of people and their creations amidst the vast abyss of space. The score by Max Richter and Lorne Balfe avoids the symphonic grandeur often associated with space operas. Instead, this is chamber music, tender but threatening, that points to a melancholy truth that slowly reveals itself to the viewer (and even slower Roy): no matter how far away we are from the earth, there is no escape for our own human beings problems, Limitations and weaknesses.

The supernaturally hot face and body of Brad Pitt seem to be a strange vehicle for these reflections on human frailty. But Pitt's true beauty and his story on screen as the ideal of male invulnerability (just think of him this summer as he strolled through Once upon a time in Hollywood ) make him an ideal blank canvas for Gray's exploration of masculinity as a culturally recognized form of pathology. As part of his ongoing mental and physical fitness tests, Roy has to undergo regular psychological assessments. After applying a patch to his neck to measure his vital signs – Roy is such a cool customer, known for never exceeding 80 beats per minute – he answers computer-aided questions about his emotional state. Significantly, the test is considered "failed" when its answers are the truest and most vulnerable, and its aptitude for service is challenged by its superiors. The Disease of the Patriarchate, Ad Astra is not only for individual people: it is built into a system that values ​​man, as long as he can act and react like machines.

The supernaturally hot face and body of Brad Pitt seem to be a strange vehicle for these considerations of human beings. vulnerabilities.

As for women, as with many space exploration sagas, Ad Astra treats them largely as futuristic sailor women patiently holding down the fort while the men bump into the edges of the known cosmos. The only recurring female character in the film is Roy's symbolically named wife Eve (Liv Tyler), who has just left him, as we see in mostly wordless flashbacks, fed up with his emotion-absorbing ways. Ruth Negga appears in two scenes as commander of the Marsbasis, where Roy stops before the last leg of his journey. When we see her for the first time, she is denied access by a man to a part of the base that she herself is not allowed to do. And inexplicably, but amusingly, Natasha Lyonne, with untamed curls and intact New York accent, appears in a single scene as a kind of gate agent on the Mars-based launch pad. I'd like to see a Ad Astra prequel about this character, who must surely have come to her job via a way at least as interesting as Roy's.

Although Ad Astra spends most of his life in a state of rigid introspection, Gray stages an action-set piece with originality and kinetic energy. This moonbuggy chase, in which space pirates raid a fleet of US Air Force vehicles along the lip of a crater, resembles something of Mad Max: Fury Road but with 17 percent of gravity. The many zero-G flight scenes, including an ingeniously staged fistfighting pugilism, were all carried out in practice, with the actors hung on wires and not weighted by CGI, and the effect is hugely convincing.

But the confrontation the film concentrates on as Roy's journey brings him closer and closer to his father, who has been as far from humanity as possible throughout his life, is the opposite of a superhero-style apotheosis. "I will not rely on anyone or anything," Roy repeats at the beginning of the film, both as a personal mantra and as a professional vow. "I will not be prone to mistakes." It is the slow and painful task of this cult of self-sufficiency that makes the last scenes so moving and brings down the high-flying abstractions of Ad Astra back to Earth.


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