Everything you need to know about Ad Astra movie
Ad Astra is a 2019 American science fiction action adventure film produced, co-written and directed by James Gray. Starring Brad Pitt, Tommy Lee Jones, Ruth Negga, Liv Tyler and Donald Sutherland, it follows an astronaut who goes into space in search of his lost father, whose experiment threatens the Solar System.
Ad Astra | Official Trailer 2 [HD]
The project was announced in early 2016, with Gray saying he wanted to feature “the most realistic depiction of space travel that’s been put in a movie”. Pitt signed on to star in April 2017 and the rest of the cast joined later that year. Filming began around Los Angeles that August, lasting through October.
Ad Astra had its world premiere at the Venice Film Festival on August 29, 2019, and was theatrically released in the United States on September 20, 2019 by Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures, under the 20th Century Fox banner. It received mostly positive reviews from critics, with universal praise for Pitt’s performance.
Ad Astra Plot
In the near future, the Solar System is being struck by mysterious power surges of unknown origin, threatening the future of human life.
After surviving an incident on an immense space antenna caused by one of these surges, Major Roy McBride, son of famed pioneering astronaut H. Clifford McBride, is informed by U.S. Space Command (SpaceCom), the United States Armed Forces branch operating in Space, that the source of the surges has been traced to the “Lima Project” base.
The Lima Project had been sent some twenty-six years prior to search for intelligent life from the farthest regions of the Solar System under Clifford’s leadership, and disappeared sixteen years prior in orbit around Neptune.
A SpaceCom officer informs Roy that they believe Clifford may still be alive, and he is tasked with the mission of travelling to Mars to try and establish communication with him. Roy accepts the mission, and is joined by an old associate of his father, Colonel Pruitt.
After taking a commercial flight to the Moon, Roy and Colonel Pruitt are escorted by US military personnel to the SpaceCom lunar base, taking them across no-man’s-land. En route to the base via lunar rovers, they are ambushed by scavenging pirates, who kill most of the group except for Roy and Pruitt. After reaching the base, a dying Pruitt is placed into intensive care.
Roy transfers to a SpaceCom flight, crewed by four SpaceCom officers, flying to Mars. During the journey, the ship receives a distress signal from a Norwegian biomedical research space station. Boarding the space station, Roy and the ship’s captain find it abandoned, only to be attacked by an aggressive baboon escaped from the Norwegian station. The ape kills the ship’s captain before being neutralised by Roy. Another baboon attacks, but Roy escapes the station with the captain’s body.
While making a routine landing on Mars, another power surge hits the ship, forcing manual intervention. The interim captain finds himself too scared to fly, leaving Roy to take the controls and land the ship safely.
Having landed on Mars, Roy is taken to the underground SpaceCom base, where he briefly meets Helen Lantos, the facility Director, and is then tasked with recording voice messages to be sent to the Lima Project, in hopes that Clifford will respond. After going off-script, the crew apparently receive a response, but Roy is abruptly taken off the mission, as his personal connection to the mission is deemed to pose a psychological risk to himself and the mission’s success.
While being kept in a “comfort room”, he is visited by Lantos, who reveals she is a native Martian and has only been once to Earth as a child. She also reveals that she is the daughter of Lima Project crew-members.
In a secret conversation, she shows Roy classified footage from the Lima Project, revealing that Clifford’s crew mutinied against him trying to return back to Earth, leading him to kill them all by turning off their life-support systems, and that her parents were among the crew killed. She also tells him that the crew that brought him to Mars are soon heading to the Lima Project base themselves, where they intend to destroy it with a nuclear payload.
The two decide that Roy is the only person who should confront Clifford, and Helen sneaks Roy out of the base, leading him to an underground lake beneath the rocket launch site.
As the rocket takes off, Roy climbs aboard. After he is discovered, the crew is instructed to neutralise him. The ensuing altercation results, despite Roy’s best efforts, in the death of the entire crew.
Now alone, Roy takes command of the ship. During the long journey to Neptune, he reflects on his relationship with his father, as well as that with his estranged wife, Eve. The isolation and stress of the mission take a toll on his mental condition, but after several weeks he arrives at the Lima Project.
While approaching the base in a small module, another surge strikes, damaging the module and forcing Roy to enter the base through a space-walk. Finding the Lima base nearly abandoned and most of its crew dead, he plants the nuclear payload and meets his father.
Clifford, now the sole survivor of the base, explains that the surges come from the ship’s malfunctioning anti-matter power source, which was damaged during a mutiny, and which he has been unable to solve. Clifford also reveals that he has continued to work on the project all these years, refusing to lose faith in the possibility of non-human intelligent life.
Despite his father’s protests, Roy arms the payload and prepares to return to his ship with Clifford, who uses the thrusters on his spacesuit to launch himself into deep space, refusing to go back to Earth. Roy tries to save him, but Clifford refuses the help, leaving a distraught Roy to watch his father drift away in Neptune’s orbit.
Alone, Roy manages to thrust himself back onto his ship, going through Neptune’s ring using a piece of the Lima Project ship’s hull to shield himself, while also bringing along with him the data retrieved from the base. Not having enough fuel to return on his own power, he uses the shock-wave from the nuclear explosion to propel the ship home.
Finding that the Lima Project data strongly suggests that humans are the only intelligent life in the universe after all, Roy finds himself imbued with a renewed desire to reconnect with those closest to him, and returns to Earth with a new-found sense of optimism. He seemingly reconnects with his wife.
Ad Astra Movie Cast
Brad Pitt as Major Roy McBride
Tommy Lee Jones as Clifford McBride
Ruth Negga as Helen Lantos
Liv Tyler as Eve McBride
Donald Sutherland as Colonel Pruitt
Jamie Kennedy as Peter Bello
John Finn as General Stroud
Kimberly Elise as Lorraine Deavers
Bobby Nish as Franklin Yoshida
LisaGay Hamilton as Adjutant General Amelia Vogel
John Ortiz as General Rivas
Greg Bryk as Chip Garnes
Loren Dean as Donald Stanford
Donnie Keshawarz as Captain Lawrence Tanner
Natasha Lyonne as Tanya Pincus
Ad Astra Production
Director James Gray first confirmed his plans to write and direct Ad Astra on May 12, 2016 during the 2016 Cannes Film Festival.
In April 2017, while promoting The Lost City of Z, Gray compared the story of Ad Astra to Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness. Gray also mentioned that he intended for the film to feature “the most realistic depiction of space travel that’s been put in a movie and to basically say, ‘Space is awfully hostile to us.'” Gray also confirmed that filming for Ad Astra would commence on July 17, 2017.
On April 10, 2017, James Gray confirmed that Brad Pitt would star in Ad Astra. In June, Tommy Lee Jones joined the cast to portray Pitt’s lost father. In August, Ruth Negga, John Finn, Donald Sutherland and Jamie Kennedy joined the cast.
Principal photography on the film began in mid-August 2017 in Santa Clarita, California, lasting 60 days.
The visual effects are provided by Moving Picture Company, Method Studios, Mr. X, Weta Digital, Brainstorm Digital, and Capital T, and supervised by Allen Maris, Christopher Downs, Guillaume Rocheron, Ryan Tudhope, Aidan Fraser, Olaf Wendt, Anders Langlands, Eran Dinur, Jamie Hallett, and Territory Studio.
Max Richter composed the film’s score, with Lorne Balfe later writing additional music for the film.
Ad Astra Release Date
Ad Astra had its world premiere at the Venice Film Festival on August 29, 2019. It was released on September 20, 2019, by Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures. It was previously scheduled for January 11, 2019 and then for May 24 before being pushed back.
— Ad Astra (@adastramovie) September 20, 2019
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Ad Astra Critical response
On Rotten Tomatoes, the film holds an approval rating of 81% based on 210 reviews, with an average rating of 7.7/10. The website’s critical consensus reads: “Ad Astra takes a visually thrilling journey through the vast reaches of space while charting an ambitious course for the heart of the bond between parent and child.”
On Metacritic, which uses a weighted average, the film has a score of 80 out of 100, based on 54 critics, indicating “generally favorable reviews”. Audiences polled by PostTrak gave the film an average 3 out of 5 stars and a 40% “definite recommend.”
David Ehrlich of IndieWire gave the film an “A”, saying that “Ad Astra is one of the most ruminative, withdrawn, and curiously optimistic space epics this side of Solaris. It’s also one of the best.”
Similarly, Xan Brooks of The Guardian gave the film five out of five stars, called it a “superb space-opera” and praised Pitt’s performance, writing: “Pitt embodies McBride with a series of deft gestures and a minimum of fuss. His performance is so understated it hardly looks like acting at all.”
Variety’s Owen Gleiberman praised Pitt’s performance and wrote: “Gray proves beyond measure that he’s got the chops to make a movie like this. He also has a vision, of sorts — one that’s expressed, nearly inadvertently, in the metaphor of that space antenna.“