How many miles would you go to resolve your daddy issues? In James Gray’s Ad Astra, it would be about two and a half billion. Brad Pitt is astronaut Major Roy McBride. He’s leading a team to build the world’s largest antenna array, designed to search and communicate with extraterrestrial life…if it’s out there.
While working at an extreme, atmospheric height on the antenna, a mysterious power surge from space severely damages the antenna sending McBride hurtling to the Earth. Instantly, he wakes up in a hospital bed. Later, McBride is taken to a secret meeting with top members of the military, who inform him that the power surges may have been caused by his father, who has been missing in space for over sixteen years.
“…the power surges may have been caused by his father, who has been missing…for over sixteen years.”
McBride’s father, H. Clifford McBride (Tommy Lee Jones) was sent on a long-term mission on Neptune, to a distance far enough from the magnetic effects of the sun to no longer impede their alien communications instruments. The mission was called the Lima Project. And this is where the daddy issues come in, as told through the voice narration of McBride. “I do what I do because of my dad,” Roy ponders. Sixteen years ago, H. Clifford left his son on what was a groundbreaking mission of discovery, and after a year or so, all communication ceased with the Lima Project altogether
His father’s disappearance led young Roy to follow in his daddy’s footsteps and become an astronaut himself. Roy now learned that not only may his father be alive, but he could be the one directly involved in these power surges that seek to threaten life on earth. Roy agrees to locate his father for the military and attempt to communicate with him.
Now our heroes journey begins. In fact, this story of a son in search of his missing, almost mythic father has been told in tales of old. It’s just the distance was much shorter. Like those stories, Roy’s sojourn starts simple enough but progressively gets more and more complicated. On his way, he is accompanied by Colonel Thomas Pruitt (Donald Sutherland), one of only a few people who know about his mission. He warns Roy not to trust anyone. Ok…the mission: Roy is to go to the moon to board a rocket that will take him to Mars, where he’ll send a message to his father on Neptune. The hope is upon hearing his son’s voice, this might influence his father to stop his deadly activities.