500 Days Of Film Reviews The Martian Starring Matt Damon, Jessica Chastain, Jeff Daniels And Chiwetel Ejiofor
The storm comes without warning and suddenly the astronauts on the surface of Mars are surrounded by fast flying grit. Visibility close to zero, one of the team, botanist Mark Watney, is hit by an antenna and lost. Believing him to be dead, the remaining astronauts return to their ship, leave the red planet and head home.
But Watney is not dead.
Unfortunately, that is where the good news ends. Watney’s chances of survival alone on Mars are bleak to say the least. NASA thinks he is dead and he cannot contact mission control. A rescue mission is at least four years away and he will run out of rations long before then.
Despite these seemingly insurmountable challenges, Watney makes a powerful decision - he is not going to die on Mars. He may not have superpowers, but Watney has intellect, science and a keen sense of humour. The question is, can he survive long enough?
Is It Any Good?
I have been intrigued by The Martian ever since I first heard that a film was being made of Andy Weir’s 2011 book of the same name. Then we were shown a couple of intriguing teaser trailers and it all seemed rather exciting.
As the movie’s release date grew nearer I felt myself bracing for the impact of negative (Prometheus-like) reviews. Please make this good, I thought. Please. Well, I have just returned from watching The Martian and I absolutely loved it. I haven’t seen such an entertaining, funny and uplifting film in a long, long time.
There is such an amazing story here and that, for me, is why it wins.
Matt Damon is superb. His is a charismatic and genuinely funny performance. I laughed much more than I expected (“Mars will come to fear my botany powers”). Watney records his time on Mars via a series of different cameras and these scenes are both entertaining and endearing. I just can’t imagine anyone else pulling off this role as well as Damon.
Meanwhile, the rest of the cast are fantastic. Jessica Chastain is as amazing as ever as Captain Lewis. You really feel the trauma behind her decision to leave Watney behind and the responsibility that she has to bear. The rest of the crew are also brilliant (particularly Michael Pena).
Back on earth, Chiwetel Ejiofor is superb as Vincent Kapoor, director of the Mars Mission, and Jeff Daniels is perfect as stern director of NASA, Teddy Sanders.
Every character has to use their own specific set of skills to try and save Watney. This involves the use of some fantastic sciencey stuff (technical term). Now, I wouldn’t be able to tell if any of this is credible but apparently NASA has backed much of the technical side of the film (apart from the Mars storms which are pure plot device).
What I loved about the science stuff is that I was sat there with my eleven year old son and I could feel him getting excited by it all and soaking up all that cool physics and biology. This is going to inspire many a kid to start tinkering with science kits I’m sure.
Meanwhile, The Martian also looks beautiful. The landscapes on Mars are stunning, as are the scenes in space. Ridley Scott is, of course, well known for being a visual director and, here, you can certainly see why. Everything looks wonderful - from the space suits (check out those helmets!) to the fantastic scenes at NASA’s jet propulsion lab.
Meanwhile, much of the film’s uplifting mood is created via its fabulous soundtrack. The only music that Watney has access to is Lewis’ disco tracks. They shouldn’t work on Mars and out in space but they add to the fun and enjoyment of the movie.
However, The Martian is not all fun and games. It is also extremely tense and events move at pace. There was no point when I relaxed felt that everyone was safe. Instead, I was rooting for him to survive and found many scenes in the movie very moving indeed.
Go see The Martian - it is a brilliant film and one I really want to see again. Soon.
There is some quite robust language in The Martian with several uses of the f-word (albeit for humourous effect).
There are also some slightly icky scenes of injury detail at the start of the film.
The Martian landscape was actually created in Bucharest on the largest sound stage in Europe. Scott also used the desert of Wadi Rum in southern Jordan for the film’s exteriors.
The film had employees from NASA on set full time to help the actors and consult on the story.
Why do films assume that people will gather in large crowds in all major cities to watch nail biting events on big screens? I’d rather be watching from home than standing in Trafalgar Square, I have to say.
Not sure I’ll fancy potatoes for a while.
How amazing to have a film about Mars come out in a week when NASA announces flowing water on the red planet. You can see the film’s marketing department rubbing their hands with glee!
Have you seen The Martian? I’d love to know what you think. Do leave me a comment in the section below.