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Review: The Martian

October 2, 2015

By John Corrado

★★★★ (out of 4)

The Martian Poster“I’m gonna have to science the shit out of this,” Mark Watney (Matt Damon) deadpans at one point during The Martian, and watching the resourceful astronaut do just that provides one of the greatest moviegoing experiences of the year, in a rare blockbuster that manages to be smart, inspiring and effervescently cool.

Adapting Andy Weir’s bestselling novel for the screen, this is also director Ridley Scott’s best work in years, a remarkable return to form for the filmmaker who first got his start in the science fiction genre.  It’s simply that good.

Left stranded and presumed dead on Mars, after Commander Lewis (Jessica Chastain) and the rest of his six person crew are forced to make the tough decision to leave without him in the wake of an unexpected storm, Mark Watney must figure out a way to survive by himself on the red planet.

Putting his degree in botany to good use, and figuring out a way to grow his own potatoes to go alongside the limited rations, the stranded astronaut struggles to make contact with his team back on earth, coming to terms with his sudden solitude and possible mortality.  Meanwhile, NASA chief Teddy Sanders (Jeff Daniels) and his scientific advisor Venkat Kapoor (Chiwetel Ejiofor) are struggling to work through all of the corporate red tape and complex manoeuvring needed to send a rescue mission, while trying to keep things out of the media spotlight, lest the astronaut doesn’t make it home.

Left on his own for pretty much all of his scenes, Matt Damon commands the screen in one his absolute best performances, tough and resourceful in his fear of not being found, but with all of his usual charm still intact.  The internal monologues of the book are brought to life through voiceover and video logs, and the actor excels at delivering both the sharp quips and moments of emotional reflection.  The supporting cast of familiar faces is also uniformly excellent, with a refreshing amount of both gender and racial equality between them.  Even the bit players, like Kristen Wiig as the public relations boss and Donald Glover as a young science nerd, are given plenty of memorable moments.

Drew Goddard’s screenplay is filled with sharp dialogue, as the story finds ingeniously clever solutions to its character’s increasing obstacles, priding itself on intelligence every step of the way, and making science and math look oh so cool.  Ridley Scott directs with a genuine eye for visual effects, conjuring up some spectacular images and seeming utterly confident behind the camera, delivering a space epic that deserves to be mentioned alongside his previous science fiction classics Alien and Blade Runner.  This is all set to a great soundtrack that offers its own “Awesome Mix” of pumping 1970s hits.

Thrilling, visually stunning and above all else extremely entertaining, The Martian is an incredible achievement by all involved, offering a shining and bighearted example of the absolute best that modern blockbuster filmmaking has to offer.  And with the recent discovery of water on Mars, there’s simply no better place to hang out for a couple of hours.

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