Ad Astra's cast is out of this world – and you can stream it next week

Disney's paranoid space thriller has a killer cast and looks incredible

Ad Astra on Disney+
(Image credit: Disney+)

How often do you get a film that features not just Brad Pitt but Tommy Lee Jones, Ruth Negga, Donald Sutherland and Liv Tyler? It's fitting that Ad Astra has such a stellar cast, because this paranoid thriller is set in space – and if you're in the UK and Ireland, you can stream it on Disney+ UK from May the 10th.

The film centres on Roy McBride (Pitt), whose dad disappeared 30 years ago on a deep space mission. Roy has followed in his father's footsteps to become an astronaut, and he embarks on a dangerous mission to discover the truth about dad. Could it be connected with the mysterious power surge that threatens the very stability of the universe? In my best Hong Kong Phooey voice: could be!

Is Ad Astra worth streaming?

It's fair to say that reaction has been mixed. On Rotten Tomatoes the critic rating is 83%, but the audience rating is just 40%: people who don't like it really don't like it. However, that looks very much like a marketing problem. When the film was released in cinemas, the marketing strongly suggested it was an epic space adventure – but it's more about people than planets.

The critics, while positive, make it very clear that this isn't a space film of the pew pew pew space aliens variety. The word "sombre" comes up a lot, as does "poignant": as MN Miller of Ready Steady Cut puts it, "Ad Astra is as much about the void we create in our personal lives as it is about space travel." It's a human drama in which the space between Earth and Jupiter might be considered a metaphor for the space between people: The Big Issue's Cath Clarke describes Pitt's character as "a man living without feeling", someone who is "compelled to go to the moon like salmon swimming upstream." 

Clearly if you're looking for an exciting space opera, you'll be better served by The Mandalorian. But if you fancy your SF a little more cerebral, I think Ad Astra is worth streaming. 

Carrie Marshall

Writer, musician and broadcaster Carrie Marshall has been covering technology since 1998 and is particularly interested in how tech can help us live our best lives. Her CV is a who’s who of magazines, newspapers, websites and radio programmes ranging from T3, Techradar and MacFormat to the BBC, Sunday Post and People’s Friend. Carrie has written more than a dozen books, ghost-wrote two more and co-wrote seven more books and a Radio 2 documentary series; her memoir, Carrie Kills A Man, was shortlisted for the British Book Awards. When she’s not scribbling, Carrie is the singer in Glaswegian rock band Unquiet Mind (unquietmindmusic).