Ridley Scott has another triumph. The Martian is a techno thriller on a grand scale. The 79 year old director/producer who brought everything from Alien, Blade Runner, and Thelma and Louise to American Gangster, Black Hawk Down and GI Jane, spins a tale of heroism, ingenuity, and honor. At a time when many see America in decline, this movie brings all the qualities that make this country great to light.
Matt Damon plays an astronaut that is left behind when a severe storm forces his crew mates to abandon a station on Mars. They thought he had died in the storm.
A botanist, Damon uses the resources at his disposal to grow food, and extend his life on the red planet while a rescue effort can be mounted. His radio destroyed, he locates a 20 year old mars lander and uses it to communicate with earth. He finds out that they already know he’s alive but have decided not to tell the crew that abandoned him.
This is an ‘if anything can go wrong it will’ movie. The plot stresses everyone involved including the wizards at JPL, NASA, and even the Chinese Space Agency that steps in to help save the day. One of the best lines in the movie is when the Chinese decide to offer help. “This must be scientist to scientist.” The inference that politicians everywhere ruin everything is quite strong.
The film has comic relief – it has to or your psyche couldn’t stand the stress. Damon’s character embodies everything that makes our space effort great. He’s smart, wise, and filled with good humor. He doesn’t give up in the face of incredible odds.
His crew mates, upon finding he’s still alive. elect to spend an additional year in space to mount a rescue effort in the face of direct orders not to do so.
Ridley Scott has made a movie that is everything a movie should be. It reminds us that Hollywood can make a thriller with a good story, three denominational characters you actually care about, and can do so without the blood and gore we see almost daily. OK, Damon does favor the “F” word, but frankly you would too in his position.
The support cast including Jeff Daniels as the NASA director, Jessica Chastain as the leader of the Mars Mission, and Sean Bean as the Flight Director turn in excellent performances. Benedict Wong as the nearly overwhelmed JPL team leader and Chiwetel Ejiofor as the manager in charge of the Mars Mission round out a steller cast, many who had worked with Scott in the past.
This is an excellent movie. See it.