Just as people began to write off veteran director Ridley Scott after a series of merely OK movies, the 77-year-old casually releases his most entertaining film in years. This sci-fi adventure is lithe, humorous, thrilling and genuinely moving. In other words, it's one of Scott's best films, mixing eye-catching visuals with a story that resonates with both emotion and deeper meaning. And it's also a lot of fun.
In the very near future, the first manned mission to Mars is caught off guard by a sudden storm. With their ship in danger, Commander Lewis (Jessica Chastain) orders the crew to evacuate, but in the chaos botanist Watney (Matt Damon) is knocked away and presumed dead. As Lewis and her team (Michael Pena, Kate Mara, Sebastian Stan and Aksel Hennie) begin the long trek back to Earth, Watney wakes up alone on Mars and understands that he will need to survive until the next mission arrives in four years' time. But his habitat is only designed to last for 30 days, so he has a lot of work to do. Eventually, he thinks of a way to get a message back home to Nasa, letting them know he's alive. Now the experts (including Jeff Daniels, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Sean Bean and Kristen Wiig) must figure out a way to rescue him before he runs out of food and water.
The story plays out on three fronts: with Watney using his expertise to survive, Lewis and her crew on their long journey back home, and the Nasa officials mounting a rescue mission. All three plot-strands are riveting, using convincing science to explore the conundrum while cranking up the emotional urgency of the situation. Intriguingly, the script never gives Watney a family back on Earth to sentimentalise things; the film simply doesn't need that. And Damon more than holds the audience's sympathy. He's funny, smart, tenacious and thoroughly identifiable, the kind of person we wish we would be in the same situation.
Continue reading: The Martian Review