Director James Gray's (The Lost City of Z) outer space drama Ad Astra is a worthwhile bet for fans of character-based science fiction.
A series of mysterious surges has killed thousands on Earth in the near future. Astronaut Roy McBride (Brad Pitt) is told by his bosses that they think his missing father (Tommy Lee Jones) might be behind the events. Decades earlier, Jones led a team of astronauts to the outer reaches of the galaxy in an effort to contact other life forms before Earth lost all contact with Jones' team.
The film is about Pitt's inner journey as he makes the physical journey across the galaxy. It's probably a bit too methodically paced and introspective to be a box office hit, but it's the kind of cerebral sci-fi film that's likely to garner a loyal following as the years go by. While much of the film is Pitt wrestling with the sins of his father and how his strained relationship with his dad has shaped his own personality, there is action, too. There's a buggy chase on the moon and an inventive suspense sequence involving a gruesome surprise on a space station.
Best of all, Ad Astra kept me wondering what would happen next. With the vast majority of movies, I'm generally able to predict what the basic story beats will be from start to finish. But there's a real sense of mystery and doubt as to what will happen from one scene to the next here. That's an accomplishment worth cheering by anyone who still longs for movies about adults made for adults.