Running Time: 144 mins
Director: Ridley Scott
Starring: Matt Damon, Jessica Chastain, Jeff Daniels, Kate Mara
Genre: Sci-Fi, Drama
A solar storm during a manned mission to Mars calls time early on the Ares III exploration but when Mark Watney is hit by debris his suit malfunctions telling his colleagues he’s died causing them to blast off towards home, having left Watney behind (Home Alone style).
|Matt was real bummed to discover Mars was not made of... well... you know... mars.|
Few things make me as cinematically happy as a Ridley Scott movie set in space. What we lack in face hugging aliens we make up with inhospitable climate, crushing isolation and tension… so much tension. Drew Goddard is an incredibly talented writer. Though he stepped away from Netflix’s Daredevil having steered the direction of the show expertly with episodes 1 & 2, his vision was so strong that it would have taken some tremendous problems to steer it away from what it was set to be. Having cut his teeth on shows like Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel, Lost and Alias he stepped up into the “big leagues” with The Cabin in the Woods and the impossible to adapt World War Z. The Martian is on a whole other level to everything he’s delivered before.
Goddard’s script is Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness but with redeeming qualities, humour and hope tainted with desperation. His writing demonstrates the psychological turmoil of a man trained to solve problems in the middle of the biggest problem imaginable. Someone who stays positive to the point of delusional because the alternative is to accept the circumstances and become engulfed in isolation. You get this, you get this without it having to be underlined. You get this because Goddard’s writing is so beautifully nuanced and human that there’s an emotional tether between the entire film and the audiences’ soul.
|The Hooker with 3-Cans from Total Recall made it for my birthday!|
Ridley Scott’s direction has the ferocious restraint of a master. There are two… maybe three directors in the entire world who could make this movie but there’s only one who can make it without making it safe. Castaway was Tom Hanks’ solo movie, but throughout the entire film it felt safe. The Martian gives the audience just enough belief to keep you watching but not enough to make you think he’ll actually make it off the red planet alive. Add that to the mind-blowing visuals and you’ve got a film that can do claustrophobia in the middle of the desert. Words simply do not stretch far enough across the page to fully highlight just had wonderful this movie looks.
Matt Damon does some excellent work. He’s got the same kind of universal likability as Hanks but at the same time he has a psychological darkness around the edges that never entirely lets you settle in your seat. He listens to disco, plants crops, and is generally in good spirits but all that does is unsettle the audience as we’re never entirely sure whether he’s genuine, fooling himself, unhinged or in denial. At times he is in all four; at others he’s a mix of them and yet nothing is every discussed. It takes a director like Scott to pull together a supporting cast like this. Jeff Daniels is always mesmerising and this is no exception. Throw into the mix Sean Bean, Jessica Chastain, Kate Mara, Donald Glover, Benedict Wong and Sebastian Stan and you could be forgiven for thinking that there’s just too many names and not enough going on but you’d be wrong. The two and a half hours of The Martian are not wasted. Every second on this film cranks up the tension, eases off the pressure and keeps you bobbing up-and-down like a dashboard Jesus on a rollercoaster.
When I first watched Gravity it was on a plane, at 30,000 ft and the vulnerability felt during the viewing pushed the emotional tether to the film to an all-time high. The Martian manages this on the ground; on the very edge of my couch really, where I spent the majority of the movie. Had I watched it at any altitude (even my first floor cinema room) it would have been enough to cause a complete psychological collapse as I contemplated the fragility of human life; the impossible size of the universe and our place in it. All of which is accompanied by more ABBA tracks than their West End musical. A near perfect movie.