2019 Film Reviews – 45: Ad Astra [dir. James Gray; 2019]

I’m not as allergic as some to the use of voiceovers in cinema. But I can find not one single reason to justify its presence in Ad Astra, apart from being a means to emphasise how patronising the movie is as a whole. Its opening premise is promising, if tenuous: an emotionally-detached astronaut is sent on a dangerous mission to contact his father, who may or not have lost his mind out in the furthest reaches of the solar system. But the subsequent treatment of the story is so heavy-handed, so self-important and so intent on the use of crude symbolism, it’s hard not to read it as a portentous mess by the time it reaches its preposterous conclusion. The visuals in a few sequences are worthy of praise – especially those set on the Moon – but this melange of Event Horizon and Apocalypse Now fails to reach the profundities suggested by its pace and tone. One wonders if Gray reacted to the criticism of his superior Lost City Of Z by trying to make this effort less opaque. If so, he should have stuck to the instincts that guided the creation of his previous movie.


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