Get busy living – ★★★★
Ridley Scott may have just released what will be his biggest hit with audiences since Gladiator. With some great films since then in Matchstick Men, The Counsellor and Prometheus, he also has his haters for those very same movies. With The Martian he has provided a well-rounded simple story that is visually and technically impressive. The premise is simple; a manned mission to Mars by NASA has to abort due to a storm, Mark Watney (Matt Damon) is hit by debris and left for dead. Turns out though that he isn’t dead and must try and survive on a totally desolate planet. When NASA and the crew find out the whole world waits with baited breath to see what will become of Watney.
The film clocks in at 2 hours and 20minutes and somehow doesn’t drag for one of them. It has three sets – Whatney on Mars, the folks at NASA and then the crew returning to Earth. It’s down to Scott’s talent as a director to know when to cut between each giving them space to breath and develop. It has the same if not more characters than the recent Everest yet here we feel much less cheated or short changed. While there are three settings and a myriad of characters it’s Damon’s film, he must convince us to root for a scientist who it would appear has no children or a wife at home that he’s trying to get back to. He simply wants to live and through science and ingenuity tries his best to stay alive.
The supporting cast includes heavy hitters in the likes of Chiwetel Ejiofor, Jeff Daniels, Jessica Chastain, Kristen Wiig, Michael Pena, Sean Bean (getting on in years) and Aksel Hennie (from the fantastic Headhunters) and no matter how small their role each gives the film more depth. Unfortunately the only bum casting note is with Donald Glover who fans of “Community” will recognise. It’s more so the character than the acting with it bordering on “The Big Bang Theory” territory.
The Martian brings to mind Ron Howard’s Apollo 13 with the impossible tasks and deadlines being asked of the jet propulsion lab. Sci-fi geeks will also recall Douglas Trumbull’s 1972 film Silent Running which stars Bruce Dern as a botanist tasked with tending to the last of Earth’s plants. With nods also to Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey in the space ship design we can rest assured that Scott knows his Sci-Fi having added two giants to the gene himself in Alien and Blade Runner.
While heavily rooted in science fact, having consulted with NASA in order to be allowed to portray them in the film, The Martian must be allowed some emotion. Not in a grandstanding way but merely a celebration of life and survival.
The Martian opened Wednesday 30th of September 2015