Saturday, 20 August 2016

The Martian

Year of Release:  2015
Director:  Ridley Scott
Screenplay:  Drew Goddard, based on the novel The Martian by Andy Weir
Starring:  Matt Damon, Jessica Chastain, Kristen Wiig, Jeff Daniels, Michael Pena, Kate Mara, Sean Bean, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Benedict Wong, Donald Glover, Sebastian Stan, Aksel Hennie
Running Time:  141 minutes
Genre:  science-fiction, drama

This thrilling science-fiction survival story is adaptation of the acclaimed novel by Andy Weir.  The manned Ares III mission on Mars is aborted early due to a violent storm, during the evacuation, astronaut Mark Watney (Damon) is hit by a piece of debris and, presumed dead, is left behind on the surface of Mars.  Watney finds himself completely alone on a desolate planet, and faced with finding a way to get in contact with Earth, and keeping himself alive long enough to be rescued, with a rapidly diminishing supply of food, drink and air.

The film moves between Watney's desperate attempts to survive on Mars and the efforts back on Earth to retrieve him.  It's an exciting, straightforward story, which is gripping, despite the fact that it is basically about one man alone on a planet.  Matt Damon makes Watney a likeable and engaging anchor for the film, and he has strong support from a large and impressive cast.  It benefits from the switching back and forth between Mars, Earth and the mission's spaceship, opening up the narrative and making it far more than a one man show.  It's a deeply human film, about people trying to save one life.  All the conflict in the film comes from people arguing about how best to do that.

It is worth pointing out that this is a science-fiction film but there are no aliens or killer robots or anything like that, instead it tries to be relatively realistic.  Although it is worth pointing out that in reality, a Martian storm would only really be like a light breeze, rather than the raging hurricane depicted in the film.

By and large it is pretty faithful to the Weir novel and the dialogue is witty and there is plenty of humour to alleviate the tension, and quirky and amusing details such as the frequent 1970s songs on the soundtrack (the only music that Watney has available to him in his shelter).

Aside from a couple of moments of introspection there is little of the angst and despair that the situation might engender, which strikes a bit of a false note.  However this is a hugely enjoyable film.

    Matt Damon is The Martian

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