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A space odyssey with Brad Pitt in 'Ad Astra'Having stayed close to his native New York for much of his career, writer-director James Gray has lately been making up for lost time. "Ad Astra" is easily Gray's most expensive production yet. Starring Brad Pitt as an astronaut in the near future, its timing is fortuitous. Coming on the heels of Pitt's radiant performance in "Once Upon a Time ... in Hollywood," "Ad Astra" seems almost like an encore amid all the (deserved) celebration of its lead performer, a singular star in a movie universe.Pitt's Roy McBride is ordered to the far reaches of the solar system to make contact with his previously presumed dead father, the legendary space explorer H. Clifford McBride (Tommy Lee Jones).A more restrained director, Gray gives us little of Roy's earthly life, something that dulls the movie's emotional arc when Roy begins to look backward.Roy is navigating his relationship to his absent father both literally and figuratively.The placid surface of Pitt's carefully calibrated performance slowly cracks and it's often riveting to watch how Gray remakes fairly familiar science-fiction terrain.
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