Ad Astra Review – Innovative Space Program Film Delivers

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Ad Astra, from Plan B Entertainment and Twentieth Century Fox, brings to the screen the story of intergalactic travel circa 2050 and an unprecedented cosmic interruption that sends extraordinary power surges with catastrophic results hurling toward earth.

Directed and co-written by James Gray, Ad Astra stars Brad Pitt, Tommy Lee Jones, Donald Sutherland, Liv Tyler, Ruth Negga, Anne McDaniels, Hiszka Kuza, John Ortiz, Greg Bryk, Kimberly Elise, Loren Dean, John Finn, Kayla Adams, Donnie Kershawarz, Justin Dray, Sasha Compere and Vivian Fleming-Alvarez. Ad Astra is also co-written by Ethan Gross.


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The film begins with Roy McBride, played by Brad Pitt, explaining his current psychological condition via a connection made through a sensor worn on the skin that reads his vitals and the evaluator listening through a medical app for key indicators of problematic or unstable behaviors.

The assessment is accepted. His life, outside of his dedication to NASA and the continued search for intelligent life in the universe, is falling apart. His wife Eve, played by Liv Tyler, is leaving. His father, H. Clifford McBride, played by Tommy Lee Jones a decorated NASA astronaut who traveled to the furthest points in the known universe in an effort to find intelligent life and was lost in the mission and never returned.

His task today, of which he received clearance, is repair work on the intelligence towers built to reach to the edge of the atmosphere. McBride is part of a team of astronauts who work systems repair similar to any space mission. He steps out onto the tower's ladder, is in constant contact with the ground crew, tethers himself as the towers are literally at the Karman line, the boundary between Earth's atmosphere and outer space.


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Suddenly an electronic surge sends a current of unprecedented strength, the electrical force travels on a downward trajectory exploding the transformers with such force it knocks the astronauts repairing the signal towers off and sends them hurtling toward the ground.

Tumbling through the upper levels of the atmosphere, plummeting, picking up speed, out-of-control, McBride reaches about 10,000 feet and pulls the ripcord on his parachute and slowly the uncontrolled nosedive stops. He is found unconscious on the ground.

In the hospital, Eve explains it is called "The Surge," and it is causing chaos around the world. The news in the background attempts to offer insight into the unexplainable.

McBride is summoned to meet with the NASA brass, for both a debrief and a new mission. As the conversation begins, the two men, Lieutenant General Rivas, played by John Ortiz, and Brigadier General Stroud, played by John Finn present Top Secret sensitive information on "The Surge."


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As the information is sketchy and unexplainable, the two men begin to ask him about The Lima Project manned by H. Clifford McBride tasked to travel to the furthest point in the universe and determine if intelligent life exists. Unfortunately, as we all known McBride Sr., died and his ship never returned. He was and is considered a hero to all.

The mission, as it is explained, is to travel to the moon and then to Mars to send out signals to be transmitted to deep space in the hopes of reaching his father, whom they believe is alive.

McBride agrees to participate and is given a chaperone, Thomas Pruitt, played by Donald Sutherland, a former astronaut who flew missions with his father.

As they make it to the Moon, we are given a glimpse into what many see as the future of space travel, and colonization. Citizens engaged in intergalactic travel for business or pleasure. The terminals are reminiscent of any large-scale earth-based airport, kiosks offering today's news, fast food restaurants, and all amenities needed to make ones stay enjoyable.

This is where Ad Astra moves into the second act. The film is very interesting and with the plot twists and technological advancements both on earth and in space. The storyline, which is not predictable, is fascinating.

Without giving away any of the subplots, I want to mention the scene from the Norwegian space lab which included primates. It grabs the attention and is shocking.


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Ad Astra begins slowly, methodically, as one would expect in the military or space agency with each detail reviewed. There is no big WOW bouncing off the screen in the beginning.

The Roy McBride character is written in such a way that he is intentionally emotionless. He is methodical, systematic, he gets the job done, correctly, every time. He is a hero. Cool under pressure, able to relay conditions without panic.

After "The Surge," the film begins a build up and when it moves into the second act, it is an edge of the seat thriller and the cast delivers solid performances.   As space is the unknown, limitless, and now colonized, the good with the evil as the high seas, pirates at every turn and only one-way home.

Ad Astra projects the beginnings of what many say is the not too distant future. It is inventive, shocking, with surprising plot twists, turns. The visual effects are stunning with imaginative plot development and creativity.

Ad Astra opens September 20, 2019. See it and see the future.

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