Ad Astra - Reviewed By Sizoni Zilizotafsiliwa Kiswahili

In recent years, I've become enamored watching auteur filmmakers experiment with the tapestry of space. First Man and Interstellar are all-time favorites of mine. Therefore, it probably isn't surprising that I was keen to see Ad Astra. James Gray directed Ad Astra with a screenplay co-written by himself and Ethan Gross, and Gray's star-bound voyage certainly validated my interest. Following The Lost City of Z, writer-director James Gray's chosen to explore the cosmos with Brad Pitt and $80 Million. In an age of sprawling cinematic universes, mid-budgeted features are a rarity in Hollywood, so it's always reassuring to see a studio exercise restraint. Discernibly influenced by 2001: A Space Odyssey and Apocalypse Now, Ad Astra is a spellbinding space epic about self-discovery, legacy, and existentialism.

The moment Ad Astra surpasses Earth's atmosphere, Gray wonderfully visualizes the juxtaposition of our universe's grandiose and intimate essence. Renowned cinematographer Hoyte Van Hoytema captures an abundance of breathtaking imagery which deserves to be seen on the largest screen possible (see this in IMAX if you can). One slight detail I really admired was how Hoytema incorporated planetary colors into his lighting choices for interior and exterior shots, which resulted in a varied aesthetic. The visual effects also complement Hoytema's work nicely, offering an indistinguishable blend between CGI and practical effects. The craftsmanship concerning sound, costuming, and production design are all top-notch while Max Richter composed a sumptuous score I eagerly await hearing again (as of writing, it's not yet available online). It's worth noting that Lorne Balfe contributed additional music as well, but I'm currently unsure how substantial those contributions were. Regardless, the score was exquisite from start-to-finish

Though certainly contemplative, Ad Astra also contains thrilling moments of peril. A few of these which can be gleaned from the trailers include a mishap on a space antenna, a moon buggy chase evoking lunar Mad Max, and a spacewalk gone awry. Otherwise, the pacing is very methodical, which I'm confident won't be to everyone's taste. I foresee general audience members deeming it "slow" and "boring," but I was personally awestruck for the entire runtime.

Leading the expedition, Brad Pitt lends a robust performance that further ensures the venture doesn't go adrift in outer space. Pitt portrays Roy McBride as a stoic, reserved astronaut, but expertly communicates the nuances of his internalized performance. Amongst the supporting ensemble, Tommy Lee Jones provides an emotional wallop playing Ray's father while Ruth Negga, Liv Tyler, and Donald Sutherland make the most of unfortunately brief, but vital roles.

Translated from Latin, Ad Astra means "to the stars," and James Gray surely succeeds in transporting the audience there via this magnificent space epic. Should Ad Astra follow its expected box office trajectory and underperform this weekend, I'll be Sad Astra. Provided it's at least a modest success and more movies like this are made, I'll be Glad Astra. If you help make the difference towards turning a frown upside down, that'd be pretty Bad As(s)tra!