Saturday, October 03, 2015

The Martian

Year: 2015
Director: Ridley Scott
Cast: Matt Damon, Jessica Chastain, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Jeff Daniels, Kate Mara, Sean Bean, Michael Pena, Aksel Hennie, Sebastian Stan, Kristen Wiig, Mackenzie Davis, Benedict Wong

Plot: Astronaut Mark Watney is left behind on Mars and presumed dead after a freak storm forces his crew to abandon the planet. Stranded by himself, Watney has to figure out how to survive as long as possible and at the same time attempt to make contact with NASA and inform them he's alive.

Review: The Martian has been compared by many people to recent space movies like Gravity and Interstellar, and the similarities are definitely there. In terms of scope, it's somewhere between those two films.

The Martian, based on the book by Andy Weir, tells the story of Mark Watney, who was left behind and presumed dead by his crew after a massive storm hits them on Mars, forcing them to abort their mission and flee. Left alone with their equipment and a generous supply of food and water, Watney has to survive on his own, and knowing that even if he were able to somehow tell NASA that he's alive, he has to last the amount of time it takes for them to rescue him. With that in mind, he, as the trailer of the film shows us, sciences the shit out of the planet, and thanks to his resourcefulness, stays alive day after day on Mars, though not without obstacles.

Ridley Scott has finally returned to form after a few critical failures (Exodus, The Counselor) and gives moviegoers a real treat with this film. The Martian is 141 minutes long, but it's engaging enough for us that we don't feel the time passing by. It's refreshing to watch a movie about Mars that isn't a sci-fi horror or fantasy, and not a tale about isolation and what it does to a person's psyche either. Hollywood already has enough films to cover all that. The Martian is a mostly scientifically accurate adventure film with a balanced focus on drama and humour.

Thanks to Scott's steady direction and Drew Goddard's inspired and sometimes funny screenplay, The Martian is never boring, and with the absence of an actual villain, it's nice to watch a film that shows the best side of humanity for once. Credit also goes to Dariusz Wolski for some great cinematography and Arthur Max for his excellent production designs.

The cast, made up of Hollywood's finest, all put in excellent performances, especially leading man Matt Damon. Damon has demonstrated in the past that he's terrific at portraying the everyman, and here he does it again as Mark Watney. Damon makes Watney very affable from the get go, as well as very human after he finds himself stranded. Watney's never say die attitude is a real inspiration and Damon is in fine form here. The rest of the cast may not hold a candle to him though (it's Damon's show mostly) but they all perform pretty well. Worthy mentions go to Jessica Chastain as mission commander Lewis, Chiwetel Ejiofor as NASA mission control director, Sean Bean as flight director and Jeff Daniels as NASA director Sanders.

The only flaw in the film is that it slows down just a bit whenever the story doesn't focus on Watney. Don't get me wrong, the plot on how NASA plans to bring him back safely is engaging and funny, but watching Watney's struggles and successes is just more interesting to this reviewer.

Overall The Martian is a very satisfying way to spend time at the cinema. Highly recommended. (9/10)   

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