Film review: The Martians (12A)

jpns-30-09-15-030 wahts on
jpns-30-09-15-030 wahts on

SHOWCASE CINEMAS PETERBOROUGH, OUT NOW

CAST: MATT DAMON, CHIWETEL EJIOFOR, JESSICA CHASTAIN, JEFF DANIELS, MICHAEL PENA, SEAN BEAN, KRISTEN WIIG, SEBASTIAN STAN, KATE MARA, DONALD GLOVER, MACKENZIE DAVIS, AKSEL HENNIE & BENEDICT WONG

RUNNING TIME: 2 HRS 21 MINS

DIRECTOR: RIDLEY SCOTT

Matt Damon truly shines in this viscerally captivating cinematic experience.

Oscar-winning director Ridley Scott (Gladiator and Alien) – after the underwhelming Prometheus and Exodus: Gods and Kings – returns to form by bringing Andy Weir’s book to life.

And he does it justice with this intriguing story of an astronaut, Damon’s Mark Watney, who is left stranded on Mars, and has to literally – in his words – ‘science the s**t’ out of the Red Planet to stay alive.

After being assumed that he had perished in a freak storm (which to be fair couldn’t actually happen) after being hit by debris, which forces his crew mates – including Jessica Chastain (Zero Dark Thirty), Michael Pena (Ant-Man), Sebastian Stan (Captain America: Winter Soldier) and Kate Mara (Fantastic Four) – to evacuate the planet, NASA tells the public that Watney is dead.

But when he survives, he has to turn his hand to botany, science and technology to potentially pad-out 31 days worth of survival into four years, when the next Mars mission is due.

Eventually he makes contact with NASA – with Jeff Daniels’ (Speed) head-honcho at the helm, supported by Chiwetel Ejiofor’s (12 Years a Slave) mission boss, Kristen Wiig’s (Bridesmaids) PR manager and Sean Bean’s (The Lord of the Rings) flight chief – who then have to try to find a way to get supplies to the stranded astronaut, with the potential to bring him home as the world watches.

Despite the long run-time – which some may find a bit bloated if they don’t lap up the material – The Martian never tires with its multiple facets, including noteworthy character development, interesting political and PR scenarios, and Watney’s daily escapades to stay alive on Mars, proving to be truly engaging from start to finish.

Bar the slightly high-octane ending it never really ventures into ‘unrealistic’ territory, and it gives the feeling of how these problems could occur and be resolved in the coming years when NASA eventually sends a crew to the fourth planet.

Compared to, say, the recently-released Everest, The Martian is a far more intense, coherent, compelling and polished product – and is laced with a great sense of humour.

Throw in the breathtaking scenery, which really encapsulates how you’d think Mars would look and feel, and you’ve got another sci-fi drama – like with last year’s fantastic Interstellar – that is up there with the year’s best films.

But it’s Damon and Scott that really bring the Red Planet to life – with heart and SOL.

Rating: 4/5 Gavin Miller