Directed by: Ridley Scott
Starring: Matt Damon, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Jessica Chastain, Jeff Daniels & Sean Bean
Genre: Action, Adventure, Sci-Fi
Strapline: "Bring Him Home"
So, in a nutshell?
A manned mission to Mars goes badly wrong when a fierce sandstorm leaves NASA astronaut Mark Watney missing, presumed dead. He is however alive and must work out a way of contacting NASA and creating enough food for himself to survive alone on this desolate planet whilst NASA come up with a way of rescuing him.
So, what are my thoughts?
In anticipation of seeing The Martian I decided to read or in actual fact listen to the novel written by Andy Weir, via my Audible subscription. I thoroughly enjoyed the book due not only to its content, but also the excellent narration by R.C Bray, anyway, I digress. Ridley Scott was given the task of translating the book into a movie. If not anything else, The Martian rocks a stellar cast. Matt Damon, Jessica Chastain, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Sean Bean, and Jeff Daniels, the movie reads like a Who's Who of Hollywood. However, that is not always not a recipe for success, but in this case it certainly was.
Heck, I'll not beat about the bush, I'll come right out and say it, The Martian is my Film of the Year so far. Front and centre is Matt Damon who gives one of the best performances of his career. Having read the book and visualised all the characters in my head, no more so of course than Watney, Damon is PERFECT. He totally and utterly embodies this character and what horrendous physical and psychological highs and lows Watney has to endure. The actor himself had to undergo dramatic weight loss Tom Hank's style for his role. Hey, that gives me idea if I had to boil the The Martian down to three words it would be Castaway meets Contact.
The rest of the cast are on fine form. There is not one member who does not bring their A-game to the table. There is no phoning in performances here. Of all the cast (Excluding Damon) my favourites were Jeff Daniels as Teddy Sanders Director of NASA and Jessica Chastain as Commander Lewis, the commander of Hermes the crew's main ship. Chiwetel Ejiofor is also excellent as Mars Mission Director Venkat Kapoor. Side bar on his role, Irrfan Khan (Last seen in Jurassic World) was cast to play Kapoor but owing to a Bollywood contract obligation, it meant Ejiofor was cast only three weeks before filming commenced. It's ironic as after listening to R.C Bray's Kapoor on the audio book I always thought Khan would have been cast, and so he was, but it was not to be. Sorry I have strayed off the beaten track, let's carry on...
The movie also has a superb visual style. The line between the spotless CGI and Jordan desert where it was filmed is seamless. This is all greatly enhanced by the fact I saw it in 3D. I implore you to see this movie in 3D. The movie was actually shot in Real3D, therefore seeing it in IMAX 3D does the full experience justice. The shots on earth are well done, but the movie really come into it's own when you see Watney set against this vast unforgiving landscape and the shots in space. The visuals are aided by a brilliant score penned by Harry Gregson-Williams.
The movie has Ridley Scott written all over it, huge credit also must go to Drew Goddard who adapted Weir's 369 page novel. Having read the book, I of course knew what to expect, and one could say therefore that this lessened my experience, as there were no surprises. On the contrary, it heightened the experience, as I knew what was coming. The Martian is also extremely accessible for the layman, the one criticism the book came under was that it was too heavy on the science. This is not the case in the movie, Scott and Goddard have managed to make it available to all, one of the things last years Interstellar fell short on.
The humour of the book also translates well to the big screen. There are some really funny moments, whether it be Watney "Sciencing the shit" out of Mars, his love-hate relationship with a crews taste in music or back home with equally funny moments with NASA. The Martian just hits the right spot on all fronts. This upbeat vibe is greatly aided by a soundtrack inspired by not only space, but Watney's peer's collection of music.
Being a huge fan of anything to do with NASA, it's natural therefore that some of my favourite movies of all time have been movies such as Apollo 13, Contact and The Right Stuff. The Martian is reminiscent of those movies in the tense nature of what man is accomplishing. My only issues with the movie would be sometimes it's a little predictable, and after the denouement, there are a few scenes that were not really needed.
Having read the book, I went into The Martian with much anticipation, and thankfully it did not disappoint. It excelled on all fronts, whether it be Damon front and centre or the superb supporting cast on top form. The movie is masterfully directed, shot, and the seamless CGI are made real by the superb use of 3D, making you feel that you are a really there with Watney. If there is one film you must make the time to see it's this one. As I said, The Martian is my Film of the Year so far, let's see if another movie set in space, come December will change that.
The Martian is released in the UK September 30th
Review by Carleton Rutter