Review: Ad Astra

At the movies: Hollywood megastar Brad Pitt plays Major Roy McBride in sci-fi drama Ad Astra, directed by James Gray. Photo: Supplied.
At the movies: Hollywood megastar Brad Pitt plays Major Roy McBride in sci-fi drama Ad Astra, directed by James Gray. Photo: Supplied.

Following years of emotional turmoil, A-list superstar Brad Pitt has made his long-awaited return to the big screen.

Pitt recently lent his charisma to Quentin Tarantino's Once Upon A Time in Hollywood.

His latest, Ad Astra, sees him deliver a more stoic, emotionally resonant performance.

Pitt plays Major Roy McBride - a man following in the footsteps of his famous father, H. Clifford McBride (Tommy Lee Jones).

Tens of thousands of people are killed when the Earth is struck by a series of mysterious power surges.

The surges have been traced back to the 'Lima Project' - a dormant space station circling around Neptune.

After falling from the International Space Antenna back down to Earth, McBride is tasked by NASA to locate and destroy the source of the surges.

Be warned - Ad Astra is not an action-packed, easy-to-comprehend blockbuster.

Once the plot/McBride's mission is set up, the movie takes some intriguing twists and turns.

Following the moon pirates/lunar rover action sequence, it then becomes a contemplative, glacially paced psychological drama.

Leaning more towards Arrival than The Martian, Ad Astra may underwhelm or even anger some viewers.

Helped by director/co-writer James Gray (The Lost City of Z, We Own the Night), Pitt does a lot with very little.

With just a handful of facial expressions, the movie star demonstrates the full range of his capabilities.

Jones, Donald Sutherland, Liv Tyler, and Ruth Negga pop up in much smaller roles.

One subplot, delving into McBride's marriage, comes off as under-cooked and unnecessary.

Credit belongs to Ad Astra's cinematographer, Hoyt van Hoytema (Interstellar, Dunkirk), and its array of visual effects artists.

Every few minutes, the movie stops to show off its eye-popping scenic vistas.

Filled with tension, breathtaking moments, and neat ideas, Ad Astra is one of the year's biggest surprises.