Based on the book written by Andy Weir, The Martian tells the story of Mark Wattney, played by Matt Damon (Good Will Hunting, the Bourne movies), an astronaut who is left behind on the red planet by his crew when presumed dead. When a fierce storm hits the landing site of the Mars mission, Wattney is swept away and the crew have to abandon the planet before they are killed too.
Director: Ridley Scott
Staring: Matt Damon, Jessica Chastain, Kristen Wiig, Jeff Daniels, Michael Peña, Kate Mara, Sean Bean, Sebastian Stan, Aksel Hennie, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Donald Glover
Run Time: 141 Mins
Release Date: Out Now
Wattney finds himself stranded and alone on the hostile planet, with limited supplies he needs to use his knowledge and skills to survive and make contact with Earth. The first thing he needs to do is deal with a metal spike in his abdomen. For those of a nervous disposition, this scene is not for the squeamish as he has to self-operate to remove the spike, then staple up the hole…OUCH!!!!!
Once he comes to the realisation he is alone, he has two choices, survive or die. Using the video diary on the Mars base he lets the viewer know his plans on how he is going to “science the s**t out of it”. Using his botanical knowledge, he manages to grow potatoes, which will be his main food source.
The challenge Wattney has is not just a physical one but also a mental one. How to you keep yourself from going crazy in such isolation? Wattney uses a number of methods including making a video diary to leave for someone to find if he doesn’t survive, this also serves as a way to push the narrative forward. He also has re-runs of Happy Days, a couple of old video games on a laptop and bad disco music left behind by his former crew but his main objective is solving problems to aid his survival.
Back on Earth, NASA believe he is dead until a data analyst sees movement in a satellite image at the Mars base. They can see what Wattney is doing but have no way of communicating with him, until Wattney finds an old Mars Rover that used to send pictures back to Earth. With communication established between Wattney and NASA, the priority now turns to a rescue mission.
The Martian has similarities with plenty of other movies or TV, the isolation of Castaway, the rescue mission and space exploration of Interstellar and the ingenuity of MacGyver. All of these examples leave the viewer thinking “what would I do in these situations?” and so does The Martian. Every time something goes wrong, Wattney and the team back on Earth have to figure out what to do, with the limited resources or the short time scale they have, think Apollo 13 with the CO2 filter, there’s always the need for urgency and the movie does a great job at bringing that to the viewer.
Matt Damon keeps the movie together, similar to Tom Hanks in Castaway. Having no one to act opposite for most of the movie is a tough ask for any actor but Damon brings the viewer along the journey with him. This is an Oscar-worthy performance from Damon, he may not win the Oscar as Michael Fassbender is favourite for his role as Steve Jobs but Damon certainly should be nominated.
The supporting cast does a decent job when on screen but there are too many big named actors that don’t get enough screen time. When you have the likes of Jeff Daniels, Jessica Chastain, Sean Bean, Kate Mara, Kristen Wiig and Chiwetel Ejiofor in a movie you want to see more of them.
Ridley Scott has had a few misses over recent times, but The Martian is certainly his best movie since Gladiator. He creates stunning shots of Mars conveying the isolation of the marooned astronaut and has certainly done a fantastic job of bringing the best out in Matt Damon.
Overall The Martian manages to bring Andy Weir’s novel to the big screen with great success. Certainly worth a viewing on the big screen.
- Matt Damon’s performance was very strong
- The Science isn’t overly explained and doesn’t distract from the plot
- Ridley Scott is back to his best
- The runtime is about 20 mins too long
- The supporting cast were good, but we never see enough of them, especially the crew that left Wattney behind
- The initial storm and big plot point is scientifically inaccurate