Arts & Leisure

“Ad Astra” fascinates, and then drags

BRAD PITT stars in “Ad Astra.”

By Jim Tortolano

Brad Pitt, he of the dazzling, disarming smile, has now moved far from his beefcake days to a fine mellow elder Hollywood long-distance runner. His latest journey has taken him nearly to the farthest reaches of the solar system in “Ad Astra,”a ponderous but praiseworthy science fiction film from director and writer James Gray.

Pitt plays Roy McBride, an ace American astronaut who is good at being a rocket man, but not so good at connecting with people, including his father and wife.

Roy is send on a desperate mission to deep space in an attempt to stop destructive energy surges from Neptune which are wreaking havoc on Earth. The story takes on a deeper emotional tone when it’s revealed that the source of the surges may be Roy’s long-lost and believed-dead father Cliff McBride (Tommy Lee Jones).

This slow-moving film is livened up by a few scenes – a chase scene on the Moon in which “pirates” attack a small convoy moving across the lunar surface is the best – but mostly “Astra” is all about the lonely emptiness of outer space and Roy’s musings about why he feels so isolated from everything else.

To say too much more about the film would be unfair to those who haven’t seen it, but a few points can be safely made. Pitt is now much more than dimples: he is a fine actor. Also, this movie is loaded with subtexts, including reflections on God and the search for the answer to the ultimate questions.

And it’s too long. As with Pitt’s last film, “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood,” the excellence of the acting is somewhat diluted by the editing, or the lack thereof. Rod Serling could pose the same philosophical questions in 30 minutes 60 years ago. It shouldn’t take 123 minutes for Gray to do so as well.

“Ad Astra” is rated PG-13 for some violence, language and drug use.

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