Can we officially classify 'middle aged man dealing with family crisis / trauma through epic space adventure' as a subgenre now? Because between this, Interstellar and First Man we've got a lot of that going down these last few years. Thankfully this is probably the best film out of the three, or at least refreshingly different enough to stand apart.
Love the different visions of space travel we're presented with here. From an epic but just about credible man-made construct that opens the film, to the grimly believable hyper-commodified representation of space tourism* (you'd absolutely be charged for a blanket ), to the beautiful, angular, sandy desolation of Mars... just an all round great piece of sci-fi (many) world building. Hoyte van Hoytema is one of the best cinematographers in the business, and thankfully I think Gray as a director is in far less of a rush than Nolan always is so you get more moments to savour the awesome sights before we move on. It's not a particularly slow film, but it does take the time it needs. The score hits the right tone too - absent the bombast you get in most films of this ilk, and instead sort of glides along unusually while keeping with the rhythms of the film.
If you've seen The Lost City of Z, this is operating in broadly the same tonal register - this incredible adventure set against serious, moody contemplation on human folly. While this can often be a bleak, sombre film in that respect, it ultimately lands on a
strange note of thoughtful secular optimism. It can drift into overly ponderous territory at times, but I mostly appreciated its self-seriousness: it knows exactly what it is.
This is a much more accomplished performance from Pitt than we saw in Once Upon A Time In Hollywood... a few weeks ago. His work there is great, but kinda feels like his brash comfort zone at the same time. This is a much more reserved performance and demands more as a result. He pulls it off. I appreciate how the movie keeps at a distance from him - I mean, it's hard to be totally on board with
the dude who straight up murders three innocent astronauts - that I for one felt befit the film's overall sense of internalised melancholy. Everyone else is more or less here for a cameo.
Stray thoughts: loved the lunar rover chase, thought that was going to be silly but works great on the big screen. The film gets very on-the-nose
during the 'let me go' sequence in Neptune's orbit, and while it's briefly a bit eye-rolly I'd absolutely take it over the embarrassing faff of Interstellar's final act any day of the week. It's always good to see a film with such forward momentum - everything kicks into gear nearly immediately - that still feels like it has the time to slow down and contemplate about the bigger picture from time to time. A very fine film.