Ian Fastert’s review published on Letterboxd:
A roaring, living poem of a film. Every single second of Ad Astra feels like it’s being projected onto the screen from James Gray’s skull; I can’t believe this made it out of the studio system. The narration fucking works goddamn it, it makes us become one with Brad and lets us feel his inner thoughts and how they swirl and repeat and clash and RAGE. Genuinely can’t believe people don’t think this is Pitt’s best performance, my guy doesn’t even seem like he’s acting here; this is straightup his breakup movie, and the way he captures a man who needs to repress every single pounding feeling is heartbreaking. There’s so much going on in his life, and to keep pushing forward and find catharsis he has to push it all down in a way that almost drives him insane. He just wants closure, and if he has to suffer to get there, it’s worth it for him. Eventually things get better right? It can’t always be repressed pain. There has to be more to life. There has to be more out there.
I love space. Space feels like an escape from life, a place where none of your earthly shit matters, and this is a movie that takes the endless void of space and makes it pure suffocating depression, as if it just heightens the pain. It’s beautiful, but it hates you like you hate you, and when you’re 55, even this world has grown beyond you. I don’t know. I’m going through a lot right now and I needed my depression space movie. It bends and twists in weird ways but it feels personal, and even if Grey didn’t have final cut his voice is so loud and present it doesn’t matter. And I think he did, for the most part, because I can’t see what bit of this could be cut out or felt forced.
okay fine I guess we gotta talk about narration
Normally, I find narration grating and unnatural. Typically it’s used to dump exposition because they didn’t want to use the brain power to introduce backstory naturally, or it just explains everything that’s going on right in front of us and it sucks. The beginning of Coco is a good example of the former (which sucks 1. Because otherwise I’d call that a perfect movie and 2. Because Pixar used to be the gods of visual storytelling) and the latter is the original cut of Blade Runner. Ad Astra has the latter, but the thing is it works? Since the movie feels so personal and never leaves Pitt’s side, the inner monologue explaining everything kinda enhances the effect it has on me because it creates this feeling of repetition which I can relate to. I see shit and it just bounces around in my head over and over, words begetting words, the actual world not mattering but just the damn words repeating over and over. It’s maddening! And I feel Pitt losing it as he goes over his thoughts again and again and again and it just tears me apart, I wish my brain would work normally and I can just see the world, see SPACE and just experience it visually but I have to have a constant monologue going and going and going, it’s exhausting and it sucks and it’s real and Ad Astra made me feel less alone in my droning and I just think it’s perfect! I don’t know. Jesus Christ
I have a lot of thoughts about this movie, if you couldn’t tell, and I’ve been thinking all weekend of how to get them out. This is just a taste of everything I felt watching this monsterous beast of emotion, and I don’t know if I’ll ever understand everything that went through me as I watched it both times but I know it’s something I haven’t felt before, I haven’t seen a movie stare me straight in the eye and say “this is for you,” I haven’t seen Brad Pitt cry his tears of complete and utter solitude before, I haven’t felt so alone and held and I haven’t wanted to hug a movie so bad in my life. It’s disorienting, and painful, and hard, but it rules and it’s the movie I needed.
It seems like the movie they needed too.