Aled L Griffiths
Review - Ad Astra
"His ability to tell the audience what he's thinking and feeling was genuinely out of this world (pun intended)."
2019 A Space Odyssey.
First of all, going into this one I wasn't too sure what to expect. I'd heard some rave reviews but I try not to go into any film with any expectation as I find regardless of the quality, I tend to leave underwhelmed. Though how can you not get excited by a Brad Pitt movie? He's one of few big old fashioned film stars who alone can fill a cinema with audiences just because of his name on the poster.
Pitt genuinely blew me away with this one. I would even argue that he's the overall stand out in this film. He maybe has two pages of dialogue (not including the voice over which I'll touch on later) but what Pitt was able to do with just his expression, his eyes and his ability to tell the audience what he's thinking and feeling was genuinely out of this world (pun intended). Few actors today can convincingly get away with having such little dialogue but blow the performance out of the water. I'd seen a hand full of people say they could see Ryan Gosling take on this role but I would argue that Gosling's 2018 performance in the Neil Armstrong biopic is heavily influencing that idea. I don't deny Gosling would've done a great job, but after seeing this film, I could not imagine anyone but Pitt doing what he did so effortlessly.
I tend to struggle to stay engaged in a film that's starring the likes of Pitt in the titular role. I find it difficult to not just see the huge mega-star playing a version of the mega-star. I find the same thing happens with the likes of Will Smith, Tom Cruise and so forth and in all honesty, I was expecting the same treatment whilst watch Ad Astra but I was so blown away by the performance that I fell into this movie and didn't fall out until the very end.
The run time is one of the more consistently criticised elements of this film I've seen popping up the most since leaving the theatre. A lot of the negativity surrounding this one has focused on the runtime and the overall pacing of this movie. Did I feel the run time? No. Was this a slow burn? Yes. Did the pacing bother me? Absolutely not.
This is an enormous issue in today's cinema. General audiences are slowly moving towards supporting films that are easy to watch and digest, that are spoon-fed in terms of the plot and all packaged to them in a runtime of maybe two hours if not less. I think this is mainly to do with how expensive it is to go to the cinema. Audiences don't want to spend their money on a film they might not connect with meaning audiences tend to favour safer options like this summer biggest hit in Disney's Lion King remake.
Films like this one make big studios nervous. The likes of it are at risk of becoming extinct or in many cases today are being screened on home devices such as Amazon and Netflix, which is robbing us the audience of getting to see this incredibly beautiful space opera on the biggest possible screen. An example of this is Alex Garland's 2018 masterpiece Annihilation which was streamed directly to Netflix with a limited run in theatres. After seeing Garland's film, I felt I was robbed of the experience of seeing his film on the big screen. It's rumoured that the studio behind it asked Garland to cut the final act if it wanted a wide cinema release, Garland, in true auteur fashion refused, therefore, it was given to Netflix as the studio didn't think the strange final act would connect with audiences. Returning back to Ad Astra's visual prowess, I'm so glad I was able to experience this film on one of the biggest screens possible because it was certainly a spectacle. It was clear from the first frame that Director James Gray was heavily influenced by legendary filmmaker Stanley Kubrick's century defining space masterpiece 2001: A Space Odyssey. The film continually paid tribute to the grandaddy of space movies throughout the entire film, and if you're going to pay tribute to anybody, then you might as well do it to the very best.
Sonically the film's score and sound design will certainly feature at next years Oscars. The sound design was extremely smart when it decided to share with the audience what it did and didn't want you to hear. On numerous occasions, I was waiting for the film to reveal information to me when I desperately didn't want it to do so and luckily this film trusted its audience, which personally for me is one of the aspects to a film I love the most. There's very little if anything at all I didn't enjoy when it comes to this film. If I have to think of something, I wish it was longer as there was a handful of interesting characters that I wish we could have seen a little more of. I would've loved to have seen them a little more fleshed out but in doing that you risk the film's pacing and would also expand the runtime which could lead to other issues so overall, an incredible experience. Please find the biggest screen possible and check it out.