Film: The MartianCast: Matt Damon, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Jeff Daniels, Jessica Chastain
Directed by: Ridley Scott
Duration: 2 hrs 21 mins
Rating: * * * *
At 77, director Ridley Scott’s fascination with space and planets continues. He made Alien in 1979 and in circa 2015 it is The Martian. Much like George Miller earlier this year with Mad Max: Fury Road, it is impressive to see Scott so much in command of his craft, especially when back home, the career span of a director is barely ten or fifteen years.
Based on the book by Andy Weir the story has a predictable trajectory of a man lost on another planet and then the subsequent efforts to bring him back. But it is all done in an entertaining manner and Scott keeps you engaged throughout the 140 odd minutes.
Just as they are about to leave the red planet, the crew of the NASA mission are hit by a severe storm. Mark Watney (Matt Damon) gets injured and in the following chaos he is presumed dead as the rest of the crew take off fearing the worst.
But surprise surprise, Mark wakes up all alone as the solitary living creature on the planet and very little resources at his disposal. But not one to give up easily, he comes up with ingenious methods for survival including growing potatoes.
Meanwhile back on earth, NASA realizes that he is alive and sort of kicking but time is not on their side as it could take a while for essentials to reach him and years before a rescue mission can get there. The odds are against Mark but given the nature of the film you know that he will see it through not before he hits some major roadblocks.
By and large the pace is consistently maintained – the focus never stays too long on Mars where he has to fight for survival and keep his sanity intact or on earth where NASA headed by their chief (Jeff Daniels) and other scientists (Chiwetel Ejiofor, Sean Bean) are trying their best to rescue him. The scene keeps cutting between these two places in the right measure.
Even though Mark is stranded with no help in sight, there is an element of humor and positivity that runs through him – he keeps recording video logs of his day to day activities, hates disco music but since there isn’t much to choose from, he ends up listening to it.
When things start looking good, David Bowie’s Starman makes an appearance on the soundtrack (maybe they deliberately left out Bowie’s Life on Mars that would have been too literal).
It’s hard not to think of Interstellar or Gravity, two remarkable contemporary films set in space, but the similarities end there. This doesn’t have the complexity of the former or the intensity of the latter.
They have cast some terrific actors though, many of them, like Jessica Chastain don’t have a great deal of screen time but are effective all the same. Matt Damon is eminently likable in the lead role and contributes immensely in making The Martian worth a trip to the theatres.