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‘Ad Astra’ feels like a sci-fi version of ‘Apocalypse Now’

“Ad Astra” is an ambitious film that stars Brad Pitt as an astronaut on a deep-space journey in what’s proclaimed the “Near Future.” It may use the standard thriller plot device – humanity’s very existence is at stake! – but it treats it as an excuse to ruminate about life as much as it uses it as a platform for acts of derring-do. Put another way, it’s much more a sci-fi version of “Apocalypse Now” than a futuristic Rambo.

Brad Pitt plays an astronaut who’s sent far out into space on a top secret mission to save the world.

“It’s objective was to search for advanced extraterrestrial life. The ship disappeared approximately 16 years into the mission,” he informs the crew.

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Pitt’s mission is to save the universe but also to get Dad, who may or may not have gone rogue. (See the “Apocalypse Now” connection.) As he journeys from Earth to the Moon, from the Moon to Mars, and from Mars to the rings of Neptune, he has many harrowing encounters, including an ambush by terrorist moon buggies on the dark side of the moon. But none is more harrowing than the father-son dynamic on eventual display.

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“Ad Astra” is a strong, moody adventure film about space travel and its pitfalls. It’s also about the pitfalls of family, and on that score it’s a little too explicit for its own good. Thanks to Pitt voiceovers, this man of few words doesn’t know when to shut up. In space, no one should hear you brood.

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