#REVIEW: “THE MARTIAN”
Review by David Baldwin for Mr. Will Wong
A severe storm leads the crew of Ares III to abort their mission on Mars. They believe they have lost crew member and botanist Mark Watney (Matt Damon) in the chaos, as has NASA and the rest of the world. Except Mark survived, and is now stranded and alone. With limited supplies and NASA working around the clock to save him, Mark must rely on his own skills and the tools he has to survive as long as he possibly can.
Based on Andy Weir’s compelling best-seller, The Martian arrives this weekend after a white hot premiere at TIFF a few weeks back. It is a wild and emotional ride, but it is all at once a spectacular and riveting crowd-pleaser from beginning to end. Right from the moment we learn of Watney’s plight, the Film kicks into high gear and does not slow down again until the final credits roll. Director Ridley Scott fires on all cylinders and creates a modern science fiction classic in the process.
The Martian is easily Scott’s clearest vision in at least a decade, maybe even more. It does not feel self-indulgent in the slightest, nor does it look like 40-minutes were cut out of the final film to save for an eventual Director’s Cut release. Scott plays it straight – allowing the story and visuals to take precedent over any of his underlying themes or ideologies. He uses the 3D sparingly at first, before expanding the canvas and going all out in the third act with stunning Martian vistas and breathtaking scenes in space. It is not quite on-par with the visuals of Gravity, but it remains just as stunning and riveting. Some of Scott’s music choices are quite eclectic here, but they bear mention for how great they fit into the Film.
Much of the Film’s success lies specifically on Damon’s shoulders. He brings just the right amount of edge to Watney, and makes him ultra-relatable despite the scientific jargon he spouts (screenwriter Drew Goddard wisely minimized and simplified much of the details from Weir’s book). He is just as heartbreaking as he is hilarious here, running the gamut of tone changes and bringing an intense amount of emotion and authenticity to each scene. Like Tom Hanks in Cast Away, Damon excels and transcends how silly it may sound to have a character interact mainly with computers and himself. He rules over every scene, and brings an unmistakeable gravitas that forces you to never look away. Damon has always been terrific, but this performance solidifies his status in the elite of Hollywood actors.
The supporting cast does a terrific job despite their limited amounts of screen-time, but many suffer from being glorified plot devices and nothing more. It is fun to see such a diverse cast of defined and up-and-coming talent mixed into the Film, but only Chiwetel Ejiofor, Jessica Chastian and Jeff Daniels really seem to get any form of development during the Film. Damon runs circles around them obviously, but the majority do what they can to make something of their characters.
The Martian is the first must-see release of the fall movie season. What little issues it has are more than made up by how wildly and consistently entertaining the Film is. I laughed, I was moved, and I nearly lost my grip on the armrest because I was sweating so much through the finale. Damon has never been better, and Scott shows he still has what it takes to make an excellent motion picture. Do not walk to the theatre this weekend – run and hold on for dear life.
20th Century Fox Canada release THE MARTIAN on Friday, October 2, 2015.