There have been many films about father and son problems. “Ad Astra,” directed by James Gray, takes the clichés and rockets them into space in the near future. But apart from striking visuals and special effects, this father-son drama scripted by Gray and Ethan Gross, remains earthbound.

Brad Pitt, compelling on screen as usual, plays astronaut Roy McBride, son of a legendary astronaut, H. Clifford McBride, who disappeared into space nearly 30 years before while searching for life, and has been presumed lost.

News flash. Roy is informed that his father is believed to be alive on Neptune, so off Roy goes on a mission to find him. That’s after there have been some strange, destructive disturbances that Roy had to survive in his previous mission.

Roy has nurtured resentment against his father for paying more attention to his career than being a dad. But who is he to blame, dad or the space agency? And can Roy really trust the space agency? Could there be a plot against his father?

Is there any doubt that the two will meet? When they do we find effective Tommy Lee Jones in the role of the senior McBride. At least in the reunion Roy doesn’t exclaim “Daddy!”

In addition to the emotional aspects of the discovery, the screenplay then evolves into a space action film with personal bonding and perils to survival. The visuals are more effective than the story, thanks to the enormous production efforts that go into such films. The extensive end credits say it all. Others in the cast include Donald Sutherland, Ruth Negga, Kimberly Elise, Loren Dean, and Donnie Keshawarz. A 20th Century Fox release. Reviewed September 22, 2019.

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