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Ad Astra: James Gray's Galactic Contemplation

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James Gray looks to the stars with his genre flirtation, Ad Astra, about lonesome astronaut Roy McBride (Brad Pitt), who has believed his father, fabled adventurer Clifford McBride, dead for most of his life. When hes told that not only is he alive somewhere in the outer reaches of space, but that he is also to blame for a recent slew of devastating power surges that have rippled through the cosmos, killing thousands, it puts the introverted Roy on a journey of self-reflection and, ultimately, violence. Roys own personal and emotional issues, chiefly a failed marriage, surface gloomily along the way.

It's an epic premise, but the devil is in the detail. Gray's version of a near-future humanity is one in which greed and exploitative business practices came hand in hand with technical innovation. He paints us a repulsive capitalist solar system inhabited by super corporations and savage lunar piracy in scenes that hit a little too close to home for the Bezos generations.

Roy embarks on a Virgin Atlantic commercial shuttle to Earth's moon and buys a pillow and blanket for the journey. "Of course," the attendant says with a smile. "That will be $125."

Space has always been a powerful metaphorical tool in cinema, allowing us to examine the distance between people, from 2001: A Space Odyssey to Solaris. Where Ad Astra leads us exactly will prove anticlimactic to some, but Gray makes a salient point out of his third act; in any kind of quest for meaning - be it for love, God or revenge - there will always be some measure of disappointment. Roys journey allows him to see his life differently, to hold it up to starlight and see refracted all the missed opportunities of his world.

Its unclear what Clifford McBride found out there - but Roy knows what he must do to find himself.

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