A manned mission to Mars goes awry when a huge storm forces them to abandon their base and return to orbit, leaving one of the crew missing, feared dead. It isn’t until they are homeward bound that they find out that their believed dead crewman is actually still alive on Mars.
Based on the successful novel by Andy Weir, The Martian places the movie firmly on the shoulders of its star, Matt Damon. His character, Mark Watney, understandably spends most of the time on screen and nearly always alone. Luckily Damon is more than up to the challenge with a performance that carries the movie.
That isn’t to say that scenes without Damon are flat, rather they seem less colourful and feel like an interruption to the real story.
Out of the crew of the Mars mission, Michael Peña is the one who brings the most to the screen with his sarcastic Rick Martinez. The others feel like one-dimensional supporting actors who don’t spend enough time on screen to develop as characters.
On the ground, the big name actors, Kristen Wiig, Jeff Daniels, Sean Bean and Chiwetel Ejiofor all play their roles competently but without must luster. Daniels is dislikable as the director of NASA, Sean Bean seems miscast as mission control and Chiwetel Ejiofor is criminally under-used.
The Martian, directed by Ridley Scott, is a strong, highly watchable movie that more than makes up for his last science fiction outing, Prometheus. This return to form bodes well for the upcoming Prometheus sequel as well as the long time coming second Blade Runner movie.
The score, by Harry Gregson-Williams, is a perfect companion to what feels like Watney’s one source of entertainment on Mars, his commanders varied choice in music, ranging from disco to more disco.
For a movie that for long periods of time focuses on the only man on Mars, The Martian keeps the audience locked in from start to finish. It doesn’t feel like a movie that runs for over 2 hours. Matt Damon’s performance and Ridley Scott’s direction combine to produce, without a doubt, one of the best movies of the year and probably from both actor and director.