Genre: Action, Adventure, Sci-Fi
Directed by: Ridley Scott
Starring: Matt Damon, Jessica Chastain, Kristen Wiig, Jeff Daniels
After the overwhelming trilogy of disappointments that were Prometheus, The Counselor and Exodus: Gods and Kings, one can understand my initial sense of trepidation going into Ridley Scott’s latest. But thankfully, I’m happy to report that Scott is very much back on form, for The Martian – an adaptation of Martin Weir’s bestseller – is a visually stunning tale of survival against seemingly impossible odds. Sort of a science fiction Cast Away but with potatoes fertilized by human waste instead of improvised dental care and beach volleyballs, The Martian is a joy from start to finish.
The story begins when a freak storm endangers the lives of the Ares III Mission crew, the first manned mission to Mars. As the crew attempt to evacuate during the height of the storm, Nasa botanist Mark Watney (Damon) is struck by debris and presumed dead, giving his crew no choice but to leave him behind. Unbeknownst to them, and everyone else on Earth, Watney survived and must now stay alive alone on Mars with ever dwindling rations until another manned crew can rescue him, which as it transpires, may not be for quite some time.Much has been made about The Martian’s celebration of science, and with the latest developments regarding the actual Red Planet, I have no doubt that The Martian will ignite some much-needed interest in the subject. For indeed, the film is a beautiful celebration of science as Damon’s botanist must utilize all his smarts to grow food on a planet where nothing grows, re-establish communications with Earth and survive in one of the most hostile environments imaginable. While there’s no denying Ridley Scott’s visual scope and masterful handling of the visuals, the real heart of the film is its sense of humanity, camaraderie and overall good-natured spirit.
With one of the finest ensemble casts of the year, the film showcases what happens when humanity decides to come together. From the crew of the Hermes to the men and women working tirelessly down on Earth to bring Watney home, Drew Goddard’s witty and affable screenplay never allows the science nor bleakness of Damon’s situation to get in the way of the people on show.The cast are uniformly great. As Watney, Matt Damon is as likeable and charismatic as ever. Utilizing the format of mission logs and video diaries, Watney’s tale of survival and use of science to survive and better his situation is riveting to watch; and along with the humour embedded within Goddard’s script, Damon effortlessly allows the audience to relate to his character, something that has been sorely lacking in Scott’s films recently. Jessica Chastain meanwhile, as the commander of Ares III mission, is terrific, as are Jeff Daniels and Chiwetel Ejiofor’s Nasa guys on the ground.
If there’s a downside, it is that perhaps the characters are never quite as well rounded as they could be and sometimes the process does get in the way, but Scott and Goddard always manage to successfully bring it back to the people.
Coupled with gorgeous visuals of space and vast landscapes of Mars – worth catching on the biggest screen you can find – The Martian is a truly epic tale of humanity and survival.