Director Ridley Scott (Alien, Blade Runner) and writer Drew Goddard (The Cabin In The Woods) adapt the best selling novel by Andy Weir and tell the story of astronaut Mark Watney, a man stranded alone on the surface of Mars by his crew who believed him to be killed during a deadly storm. With little food and no way of contacting NASA, Mark has to "science the shit" out of Mars and try his best to survive.
Matt Damon (The Bourne Ultimatum) delivers a career best performance as Mark Watney, a man who by all accounts should have lost hope as soon as he woke up on Mars, but what keeps us rooting for Watney is his inspiring optimism about the situation. He doesn't spend much time moping, he gets straight to work figuring out how he can possibly survive on Mars with a limited food supply. Luckily Watney is a botanist and figures out a way he can eat for up to four years, but of course many things go awry during the movie which I won't spoil. Without Damon, The Martian simply does not work. We have to be able to root for this character and Damon pulls off the role excellently and delivers one of the finest performances of the year so far.
Reviews are calling The Martian "the best film of the year", and whilst I don't think it's the tour de force a lot of critics are hailing it, this is a very good film and one that must be seen on the big screen.
Ridley Scott has been in a bit of a rough patch lately. Prometheus was admittedly quite a divisive film among fans but his other films of the past decade have been laughable whether that be The Counsellor or Exodus: Gods & Kings. What most surprised me about The Martian is how well directed the film is, it's a beautifully told story by Scott who's working with a scientifically interesting, witty and human script by Drew Goddard. Whilst I'm hesitant to say Ridley Scott is back, this is certainly a step in the right direction for the iconic director. Goddard and Scott inject The Martian with so much humor that it's almost impossible not to have a good time with the film, spirits are kept high which was refreshing as the situation Watney's in isn't a very humorous one.
The Martian has an excellent story and the film really does make me excited to pick up the book quite soon and get to work reading it. When Watney eventually gets into contact with NASA, they quickly start scrambling for ideas on how to save him. Do they send the crew of the Hermes back and add 500 days to their mission? Do they wait four years for another expedition? Or do they let Watney die on the Red Planet? The cast down on Earth is jam packed, Jeff Daniels (Looper), Sean Bean (Game Of Thrones), Chiwetel Ejiofor (12 Years A Slave), Donald Glover (Magic Mike XXL), Kristen Wiig (The Skeleton Twins) and Benedict Wong (Sunshine) all deliver great performances and really kept the story grounded. It was the scenes down on Earth which make you really root for Watney as you can see the desperation in the people down on Earth to bring him home safely.
The crew of the Hermes aren't notified that Watney is alive immediately as they may panic and blame themselves for leaving him behind. The cast of the Hermes is also very impressive, Michael Pena (Ant-Man), Sebastian Stan (Captain America: Civil War), Kate Mara (House Of Cards), Aksel Hennie (Hercules) and Jessica Chastain (Interstellar). All but one deliver very good performances, but I felt the weak link was Jessica Chastain who plays the missions Commander. Chastain is my favorite actress working today which is why I was so disappointed with her in this film, I thought her performance was rather flat and really lacking passion.
The story beats of The Martian aren't all too surprising, it's a pretty straightforward story, but it's the magnificent way in which it's told which kept me hooked. I loved the character of Watney but unlike what the trailer eluded to, he doesn't have a family back down on Earth which I felt would have really upped the emotional connection to the character, I was still rooting for the character but I feel that if he perhaps had a wife and child waiting for him back on Earth, I would have been more desperate for him to survive.
There are only a few negative's I have about The Martian as well as Chastain's disappointing performance. The CGI at times doesn't look fantastic, the movie is well shot and the surfaces down on Mars look gorgeous but one scene towards the end out in space didn't look amazing and took away from the tension of the scene. I won't spoil what happens at the end although it's fairly predictable, but I would have liked a couple more scenes at the end to really close out the story.
Matt Damon's performance, the wonderfully told story and the surprising sense of humor the film has make The Martian a must see for 2015.
Have you seen The Martian? If so, let me know what you thought of the movie down in the comments or on Twitter @JamesPorter97