Ad Astra, the new Brad Pitt movie directed and co-written by James Gray, is a film of spectacular beauty that recalls not just Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey, but also Peter Hyams' lesser but still respectable sequel, 2010: The Year We Make Contact, with a lot of Francis Ford Coppola's Apocalypse Now mixed in to great effect. In mentioning these films, though, I don't mean to suggest that Ad Astra is in any way derivative; rather, it uses the same cinematic alphabet to tell an original and compelling story.

The film takes place in the future - no year is mentioned, but while much of the technology seems recognizable, it also isa time when humanity has colonized the Moon and, to a lesser extent, Mars. But this is no idealized "Star Trek" future - there is greed and ambition and subterfuge.

Pitt plays Roy McBride, an astronaut of considerable experience who is asked to help hunt down his astronaut father (played with a Kurtz-like haunted quality by Tommy Lee Jones), who vanished during a deep space mission years before, and who the powers-that-be now believe may be responsible for a series of antimatter power surges that could destroy the Earth.

The details of the mission are almost beside the point; it is what filmmakers call a McGuffin. What matters is that in searching for his father, Pitt's McBride has to come to terms with how he's lived his life - the things that make him a great astronaut may not make him a great man - and his relationship with a father who is more like him than he'd like to admit. Pitt manages to communicate much with his eyes - it is an extraordinary acting achievement, and reminds us, in concert with his performance earlier this year in Once Upon A Time … in Hollywood, how he's one of our best modern film actors.

Ad Astra manages to mix together some amazing action sequences with moments of great beauty and contemplation. While there are times, to be honest, that it walks right up to the border of being ponderous, it never crosses over, and manages to be one of the best movies of the year so far.



I have an amazing wine to recommend this week - the 2015 Cristom Louise Vineyard Pinot Noir, which is rich and deep and utterly wonderful. I had it with more meat than I think I've ever had in one sitting at a Portland restaurant called Ox, consuming tripe and tongue and chorizo sausage and all sorts of other stuff that has never tasted so good before. And, as always, the wine helped make the meal.



That’s it for this week. Have a great weekend.

Back Monday.

Slàinte!