Can you fire a gun on the moon? Can you hear sound on Mars? Would there be space pirates if we colonised the moon?
Words by Ferdinand Godinez
These were some of the scientific, technical and potentially bizarre questions that faced filmmakers of Ad Astra.
Of course, the place to go when you need to know about space is NASA.
“James [Gray, director] wanted as much realism as possible,” said aerospace engineer Robert Yowell, a 30-year veteran of the US space programme.
“I read the script and pointed out some suggestions. What he was looking for in terms of realism was the physics. For instance, could you fire a gun on the moon? The answer is yes, a standard gun will work in space; a bullet has its own oxidizer.”
Gray’s movie however poses much deeper questions as the director looks to deconstruct the myth of a masculine hero and features at the heart of it, a dark and troubled character study.
Roy McBride, played by Brad Pitt, is an astronaut who travels to the outer edges of the solar system in search of his missing renegade father portrayed by Tommy Lee Jones, only to discover a secret that threatens life on Earth.
McBride is a driven but stoic astronaut haunted by the thoughts of his absent father. That glaring loneliness is only magnified by the isolation of space.
It’s a dynamic to which the 55-year-old actor can relate.
“In some ways, I’m copying him,” Pitt told The New York Times, referring to his own father. “He had grown up in extreme hardship and poverty, always dead set on giving me a better life than he had – and he did it. But he came from that stoic ilk.”
Reflecting on the movie’s emotional undertone Pitt said: “We wanted to investigate the inability to connect with others, and the self-protection mechanisms one builds up that keep us from really being open. But the ultimate place for my style of acting, as I understand it, is to get to a place of just absolute truth.”
He continued: “I’ve got to be experiencing something that’s real to me for it to read real to you. The fact is, we all carry pain, grief and loss. We spend most of our time hiding it, but it’s there, it’s in you. So, you open up those boxes.”
Ad Astra is out in UAE cinemas on 19th September. Also starring: Donald Sutherland, Ruth Negga and Liv Tyler. Rating: PG.