Ridley Scott returns to the familiar surrounding of space, a domain he has come to enjoy and revel in. The Martian can be described in a nutshell as Matt Damon is left behind on Mars alone. The movie is a book adaptation of Andy Weir’s The Martian,  which will leave you itching to talk about with your friends. There is more to this review than that and let us get into it.

The Martian starts on planet Mars as the crew of NASA’s ARES III mission are forced to abort the mission as a violent sandstorm whips up. As the crew evacuates Mark Watney (Matt Damon) is struck by a radio-communications antenna dish and is lost in the storm. The crew is forced to leave after attempts to find him in the zero-visibility environment and trying to communicate with him fail, Mark is presumed dead. Mark regains his consciousness long after the storm has passed by and has suffered injuries but very much alive.

The crew left behind the habitat with enough supplies to last him a few months. Though as we are told by the NASA officials (Jeff Daniels and Chiwetel Ejiofor) that it will take four years before they can reach to him it, it seems like Mark is on a death sentence. Mark without any communication back home is not willing to give up and gets to work as he says. “I’m going to have to science the s— out of this.”

Matt Damon in and as The Martian
Matt Damon in and as The Martian

The Martian is essentially three story arcs as we follow, the struggle of Mark Watney to stay alive. The crew led by Cmdr. Lewis (Jessica Chastain) on the way home dealing with the loss of their friend as they travel through space and the decision they will have to make when they learn Mark is alive. And the third track back home on Earth as we are treated to a thriller as Chief of NASA (Jeff Daniels) ponders whether it is worthwhile to risk lives and spending millions to save Mark. While at the same time Mars Program director (Chiwetel Ejiofor) and ARES III mission director (Sean Bean) fight time and other obstacles to get their boy back. And surprise! Sean Bean does not die!

Ridley Scott manages to find a fine balance with trying to juggle the three tracks of The Martian. Matt Damon hits the right notes as he showcases his range of acting skills. He thrives in the role whether it is in his moment of despair or triumph, he manages to keep us from getting bored with his gallows humor. He has very few scenes with other cast members and is mostly alone as he works his way through one problem after another. He manages to build a greenhouse of sorts and is able to successfully engineer plant growth on the red planet after which he then claims to be ‘the greatest mind of the planet’. Though this is hardly the only problem he is up against and yet there is rarely a moment the audience will be bored as Matt Damon holds fort and pulls you into each scene on the lonely environs of Mars.

Matt Damon thrives in the role in The Martian, whether it is in his moment of despair or triumph, he manages to keep us from getting bored with his gallows humor.

The main leads in The Martian are supported by an ensemble cast and maybe that is one of the drawbacks as it gets unwieldy trying to manage so many cast members. The main characters of the NASA officials are aided by (Kristen Wiig, Mackenzie DavisDonald Glover) in their attempts to figure out a plan to rescue their boy. The astronauts up in space flying home (Michael Pena, Kate Mara, Sebastian Stan, Aksel Hennie) under the leadership of Cmdr. Lewis attempt a long shot rescue which has been rejected by NASA in the first place. Screenwriter Drew Goddard has managed to keep the script tight and flowing while at the same time making sure not to overwhelm the audience with a lot of technical scenes and jargon.

The Martian is without doubt a cheery and upbeat film even in such a dire scenario but it does not seem forced for a moment, it is not without its moments of edge of the seat thrills and white-knuckle moments. The ending does swim into corny waters after Scott manages to largely keep it out of those dire straits, though as an audience you will be cheering on every moment of it and will seem like a minor weakness in otherwise a strong showing. The cinematographer Dariusz Wolskib is definitely at his best infusing the visuals with balanced dosages of documentary reality while creating a beautiful imagery. Damon is the undoubted hero of this cinematic vehicle, he is the hero you can identify with as he overcomes overwhelming odds with the help of exceptional people behind back home on Earth. Scott and Damon must be applauded for not making this an escapist summer fare and instead is a sophisticated sci-fi for the audiences who appreciates a fulfilling and satisfying experience. The Martian has fired the first shots in the 2015 Oscar competition.

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