WARNING: The following article contains major spoilers for Ad Astra, in theaters now.
Brad Pitt has had many glamorous roles in Hollywood. He's also played characters that garnered him huge critical fanfare in movies such as Legends of the Fall, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button and, as seen we've seen with his million-dollar heists in the Ocean's 11 franchise, audiences have no problem loving him as a criminal.
But outside of these cooler roles, he's had some grimy ones too, most notably in Fight Club, where he didn't have the best time as Tyler Durden, the wicked personality of a schizophrenic. However, when it comes to his more torrid journeys on the big screen, Ad Astra stands head and shoulders above the rest.
Pitt's Major Roy McBride starts off the film atop a space station belonging to NASA's SpaceCom division. It's responsible for establishing communication, not just with extraterrestrials nearby, but to receive signals from other Earth colonies on areas such as Mars and the moon.
Sadly, within the first few minutes, an electrical surge occurs and a vast portion of the station falls apart, killing hundreds and sending Roy free falling to Earth in a scene fit for the Mission: Impossible series. As the hurtling debris starts cutting into his parachute, you can tell he's in for a terrible road ahead.
This all adds to his PTSD after he survives, something he developed after a failed marriage and his father, Clifford (Tommy Lee Jones), walking out on the family to set his own space station up at Neptune. Eventually, Roy's brought back into the fold and told he has to go to Mars to send communiques to his dad, whose anti-matter experiments on Neptune are causing electrical storms throughout the galaxy.
It gets worse because as he travels the surface of the moon, space pirates attack, trying to destroy Roy's rover and his entourage. He then has to face baboons in space when the rocket eventually departs to Mars, making a pit stop after receiving a Norwegian station's S.O.S.
At this point, it seems like Roy is doomed to live through a series of unfortunate events, and is nothing more than bad luck for everyone around him. Eventually, he makes it to Mars and loses his captain in the aforementioned baboon attack. But it only gets worse from there when he figures why his communiques were essential: NASA needed his dad to respond so they could track his station's exact position in order for the Mars rocket to assassinate him.
A despondent Roy climbs through the rocket blasters and breaks in amid scalding hot temperatures, reiterating how much he can't catch a break.
And when he does get inside, Roy if forced to kill the crew after failing to warn them he isn't a threat. At this point, Roy's PTSD is fully engulfing him and he starts losing his mind as he commandeers the rocket all alone to Neptune. And just when you think nothing more than go wrong, he finds his dad out of his mind too.
Nothing's going right and there's no salvation because his dad killed his own crew after they wanted to return to Earth, realizing there was no first contact to be made. This leads to Roy convincing his dad to space walk back to his rocket so they can leave for Earth, and when the old man agrees, finally it seems to be a small victory. Clifford, however, is absolutely insane and drags them through space, floating so he can commit suicide. Roy lets him go and with time ticking down, he has to jump through an asteroid belt and float to his own ship, as he had just set a bomb on the Neptune station to disable the tech causing the electrical storms.
At this point, everything he tried to accomplish is for naught, because his dad's dead and now he has to destroy NASA's legacy of space travel. His luck is pretty much blighted because now he has to rely on the explosion to push him home, because -- wouldn't you know it? -- Roy's ship just doesn't have enough fuel for the journey.
At this point, you can't help but think Roy's been saddled with one of the most thankless jobs in cinematic history. And it's just as well, then, that despite it all he still decides to sacrifice everything to save the cosmetic society he despises back home.
Directed by James Gray from a script by himself and Ethan Gross, Ad Astra stars Brad Pitt, Tommy Lee Jones, Ruth Nega, Liv Tyler and Donald Sutherland, in theaters now.
KEEP READING: REVIEW: Brad Pitt Mopes Across Space in Ad Astra