Brad Pitt Is Ready for His Close-Ups
If there was ever a “star” vehicle, this is it. Brad Pitt grabs hold of 20th Century Fox’s Ad Astra and dominates the screen in almost every scene. Shown in the IMAX process, the film gives him enormous close-ups. We see and feel his emotions as tear drops fall from his eyes during tense and emotional scenes. This is Pitt’s moment; he is the ultimate star of the screen and, in this film, of the distant Heavens.
Director James Gray seemingly simply turned on the camera, focused on Pitt’s handsome craggy face, and let him roll. That was a wise decision, for Pitt quietly rivets attention on himself and all that happens to him as he hurtles through space.
Why is his character taking months to arrive at his destination? Well, he’s on assignment as an American astronaut to investigate why electrical surges are disrupting things on earth. With life hanging in the balance, Major Roy McBride (Pitt) must find out what is causing the potential elimination of humans on earth. Authorities suspect it may be caused by McBride’s missing father, scientist Clifford McBride (Tommy Lee Jones), an early pioneer who went into space years ago and was considered dead or missing. Now there are indications he may be alive and causing the experiments that threaten the entire solar system. Suspected to be hiding out on distant Neptune, Jones’ character is adamant about continuing to search for life on the distant planets.
Tommy Lee Jones, craggier than ever, is believable as Pitt’s father. At age 72, and with Pitt at age 55, Jones’ Clifford McBride would have been 17 when he became Roy’s father. Awfully young, but he was always a pioneer in whatever he did.
The film is not without action, suspense, and chills. Hurtling through space has its dangers, and many are shown, to the audience’s delight. Although the overall pace of the movie seems calm and serene, the excitement caused by the periodic crises of the journey jolts one into a frenzy of jangled nerves.
But it is Pitt’s subdued performance that rivets our attention. He has mastered the ability to convey rage, sadness, melancholy and deep love by using only his facial muscles. For the most part, his head is enclosed in a space helmet, which gives him very little facial surface to act. It is a performance never before seen and one which will be remembered at Oscar® time.
Cinematographer Hoyte van Hoytema has created a beautiful pastel look to the panorama of the Universe as well as the interior of the various space ships. Varying his camera angles to eliminate sameness in the scenes, he has kept interest in seeing close-ups of Pitt during the entire movie.
If you are a sci-fi fan and love complicated gadgets, rockets, switches and dials, this is a smorgasbord for you. This film ranks right up there with Stanley Kubrick’s iconic 2001: A Space Odyssey, which won the Oscar® for Best Visual Effects in 1968. That’s intoxicating company for sure.
(Released by 20th Century Fox/ Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures and rated “PG-13” for some violence, bloody images and brief strong language.)