‘The Martian’ Review: Matt Damon Is Electrifying as Ridley Scott Returns to True Cinematic Form

Quote: “It’s space. It doesn’t cooperate. I guarantee you that at some point, everything’s going to go south on you. You’re going to say, ‘This is it. This is how I end.’ Now you can either accept that, or you can get to work.”

Synopsis: During a manned mission to Mars, Astronaut Mark Watney (Matt Damon) is presumed dead after a fierce storm and left behind by his crew. But Watney has survived and finds himself stranded and alone on the hostile planet. With only meager supplies, he must draw upon his ingenuity, wit and spirit to subsist and find a way to signal to Earth that he is alive. Millions of miles away, NASA and a team of international scientists work tirelessly to bring “the Martian” home, while his crewmates concurrently plot a daring, if not impossible rescue mission. As these stories of incredible bravery unfold, the world comes together to root for Watney’s safe return.

Yes, everything you’ve been hearing is absolutely spot-on, The Martian is great. Actually, it’s more than great, it’s a complete success in all facets. A beautiful, intense, compelling and feel good character-driven story that doesn’t let up on either planet (Earth and Mars), let alone its full run-time that just flies by. All in all, the heart of this film comes from the career best work of Matt Damon as he delivers a performance that is not only the stand-out, but gives us as audience members a sense of adventure, hope and joy, among many more. As for director Ridley Scott, he delivers his best work in a number of years. His return to the stars is a gorgeous, tension-filled journey that rarely misses, if that.

As The Martian opens and we see the incredible landscape and visuals, we realize right away that this isn’t your everyday sci-fi film as far as visuals go. It’s a mesmerizing spectacle in every sense of the word. Scott and company use their remarkable technology to bring space to life, as we literally feel as if we are stranded on the desolate planet of Mars with Mark Watney or looking out the window of the Hermes into the depths of space alongside Beth Johanssen (Kate Mara). Of course, some shots stand-out more than most. I don’t know about you, but I felt as If I was being hit by all kinds of debris alongside the team in that killer opening storm sequence. No matter how his films have been received, Scott has always been able to create imagery that is always considered among the best, and The Martian is nothing short of sensational. You can’t even take your eyes off of the most simple of shots, such as seeing Watney build a food source on a planet that doesn’t grow food or my personal favorite, the GoPro action of Watney outside with the equipment or the rover. Scott took full advantage of using as many cameras and angles as possible, which gave his latest film a beautiful and unique look.

Over the past few days, I’ve been hearing The Martian and Gravity be included in the same sentences a lot. And although they are pretty similar as they both follow one isolated persons journey and they both have a grounded feel to them, they are still very different. Whereas Gravity was just one person, in space, alone, The Martian features a number of different characters and stories that are all connected. The center being Matt Damon’s Watney where he must science the s**t out of Mars to survive. There is also the Hermes crew as they must decide if and how they are going to bring they boy home, as well as all the Earthlings trying to figure out a way to bring home the martian man as quick as possible. It’s some pretty damn moving stuff seeing all this brilliant minds come together to save one man’s life.

As for performances go, you really can’t go wrong with any of them. As I said above, Matt Damon gives career best work as Watney. It may feel like a simple role, but to do what he was able to do under the circumstances, meaning acting the entire movie against himself, it’s just flat-out stellar. Jessica Chastain with Kate Mara, Sebastian Stan, Michael Peña and Aksel Hennie as the Hermes crew all have their shining moments, especially Chastain. And you can forget all the specs of life all those millions of miles away on Earth, led by Chiwetel Ejiofor and rounded out by Jeff Daniels who was just fantastic, Sean Bean, Kristen Wiig, Mackenzie Davis who was a great add, and Donald Glover in his smaller but refreshing role. It may sound like we just watch them talk and debate on how to bring this dude home who is stranded millions of mile away in the galaxy, but trust me, it’s much more exciting that it sounds.

I can’t finish without mentioning one of the films strongest attributes, it’s script. I may have had a few minor issues as far as pacing goes (directly after the time jump), but the adaptation from book to screen by Drew Goddard couldn’t have been any better. I was expecting it to be adventures and some great action and heroic, but I was not expecting its intelligence. Considering Damon spends most of the time talking to himself or to recording monitors, this is where it’s the strongest. Like I said, the intelligence and whit used to deliver these sequences is very entertaining, and that all that comes back to not only a great script, but great direction from Scott.

If you’ve been wondering if The Martian is worth the money or time, I can’t give it a higher recommendation. It’s a wonderful told story that is given even more life with tremendous visuals, incredibly strong performances. and an amazing script. A film of human survival that has so much heart and inspiration within its core. It’s moving and smart, and although it might scare a few from ever venturing out into the ends of the universe, it will definitely remind you that nobody will ever give up on you.

Rating: 9.25/10

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