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Ad Astra

After an electrical circuit malfunction threatens the entire planet, Roy McBride is sent on a space mission to Neptunus to possibly find his father, who went missing 29 years ago, and to put a stop to the problem. As you might've guessed, it's not exactly smooth sailing...

From the trailer, this looks like your typical gotta-save-the-planet sci-fi adventure. And there's nothing wrong with that of course. But in reality this is an intimate character journey, combined with some really beautiful visuals. Just like in Mandy, you're kind of put into a trance, where you just let the picture-esque quality absorb you. This is a case where the cinematographer deserves just as much credit as the director.

The cast is very strong, with great performances from veteran actors such as Donald Sutherland and Tommy Lee Jones as well as Ruth Negga. But who the movie truly belongs to is Brad Pitt. It's extraordinary how you can go from the carefree Cliff Booth to the reserved and hurting Roy in the same year. The change from a distant to a much more personally involved and wounded person is portrayed in a very realistic manner. Roy finds he's got his own personal demons to deal with. His father always cared more about his work than establishing a meaningful relationship with his son. And Roy starts to realize he's becoming the same as him. He neglected his wife in favor of the mission, and is prepared to die without ever really living.

The confrontation between Roy and his dad is underwhelming on a scientific level. Clifford found nothing, didn't even come even close to what he was looking for. But that's exactly the point: sometimes we reach too far to find answers that might not be there. Roy tries to talk his dad into returning to earth with him, but Cliff isn't looking to be rescued. For him life on earth is practically meaningless at this point. How could he live with the shame of spending all this time searching for extraterrestial life and wind up with nothing? Roy's pain over losing his father is very emotionally captivating. He never got the reconciliation he wanted. But he learns an important lesson: always put personal happiness before everything else, or else you end up confused and lost.

There are a few things that drag it down for me though. For instance, the dialogue can be a little on-the-nose at times, with Pitt pointing out things that are already obvious to the audience. It's also left vague how Roy actually fixed the electrical circuit problem. I know it's not the main focus in the end, but still would've liked to see how he solved it.
The fight scene between Brad Pitt and the alien was intense and well-orchestrated, though I'm not sure about the decision to make it look like an ape. Why would there be aliens on Mars that look like gorillas? Or did someone bring their pet onboard. I don't know, just struck me as odd.

If vast space landscapes coupled with character introspection sounds good to you, I highly recommend Ad Astra.

8.7, rounded up to