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The Martian

Review #248, Movie #319

Year Of Release

Ridley Scott

Simon Kinberg, Ridley Scott, Aditya Sood, Michael Schaefer, Mark Huffam

Andy Weir

Harry Gregson-Williams

Jessica Chastain, Michael Pen͂a, Kate Mara, Sebastian Stan, Chiwetel Ejiofor with Sean Bean, Benedict Wong and Jeff Daniels

And Matt Damon

A manned mission to Mars is going well, until a huge storm brews up and the crew have to abandon the mission and head back out into space.
Only on the way back to the shuttle in the immense winds and flying rocks and dust, one of the crew, Mark Watney, is hit by a piece of flying debris and thrown across the Martian tundra, and his lifeless body disappears into the dusty darkness.

After a short search for Mark’s body, the crew reluctantly leave behind their fallen crewmember, believing him to be dead from the impact.

A while later back on Earth, NASA spot something odd on the Mars Satellite imagery: Photos of the Mars Base, that were taken hours apart, show that one of the Mars Rovers has been moving around on the surface.

After months alone on Mars with what was thought to be no food, water, power or communications with anything off-planet… Mark Watney is still alive.

Awesome, awesome , awesome.

Damn I wish I’d gone to see this at the cinema. I bought the DVD instead. Sooo glad I did.
The Martian is an insightful, stirring, emotional and inspirational look at the Human psyche and spirit.

The movie revels in showing a realistic portrayal of being stranded, alone, with nothing but your wits to rely on for survival.
The good thing with this film, is the back and forth with Mars and Earth. We see NASA and its top tier people all clambering for an explanation and trying to keep the media happy and form a rescue plan at the same time, Matt Damon on Mars doing his survival thing, the crew of the ship doing their own thing to figure out how they can help… it’s pieced together nicely, apart from maybe one small cut in time with a generic “X Months Later” card
This makes me wonder if they were running out of things that Damon could do, or if there was a huge chunk of movie that was cut out for timing.

The other small fault was toward the end when another Space Agency gets involved. It felt a little, well, forced. A kind of “regardless of politics, Humans are deep down a good species” sort of hippy thing.

The movie is funny though at times. Some of the shenanigans that Damon gets up to and the banter between the various cast members over the radios and computers, is realistic and heart-touching at times.
There were also a few times I felt like crying. Not just the odd emotional scene with Damon and his predicament… but also with the odd hint of disaster for him when he has the inevitable accident or incident that blows away all his hard work.
This is all down to the audience-character connections tbh… the writing of the characters mixed with the acting, is perfect.

There’s also simplicity to this film that reminded me of Scott’s masterpiece Alien. Stuck in a place, surrounded by harsh conditions, simply trying to survive.
Also there’s the space-suits that Scott seems to be a fan of in his sci-fi movies.

Damon is brilliantly charismatic with his lone-hero thing. His monologues at camera give an impression of “found footage” and the general choreography and photography of the rest of his scenes blend perfectly with Damon’s natural ability to draw the viewer in.
Jeff Daniels, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Benedict Wong and Sean Bean play the main NASA foursome on Earth who are trying to formulate a rescue plan. They play off each other brilliantly too and hold the more serious tones together nicely when compared to Damon’s mix of tragedy and humour.
The rest of the cast, are really support for the background of the story. Jessica Chastain, Michael Pen͂a, Kate Mara and Sebastian Stan aren’t seen a huge amount really until the third act. They’re solid though, and Chastain in particular as the Mission Chief who blames herself for Watney’s situation is nicely played by JC.

As for the action and effects… well, there’s a ton of CGI… and it’s perfectly rendered. Most of it is un-spottable due to the brilliant way it’s incorporated into the movie.
The good thing though, is the film also has huge amounts of actual sets and set pieces, practical effects and the occasional pyrotechnic as well.
The action that comes in small hits is utilised as an accent to the rest of the choreography and photography rather than just for the sake of it. The movie more relies on seeing how Watney is making sure he survives on a brilliantly rendered mix of CG and practically built Martian tundra. Good job!

All in all, apart from a couple timing issues (that “Months Later” card being one of them), The Martian is a top notch sci-fi, comedy, survivalist, tragedy adventure.
Ridley Scott, after the past 10 years or so of dodgy movies like Exodus, Robin Hood, Kingdom Of Heaven and Prometheus, is definitely back on form.
Funny, touching, heart-wrenching, tragic… and will more than likely reach the heights of “Classic” in a few years from now.

My Rating: 98%