HOLLYWOOD—“Gravity” was one of those films that blew my mind in 2013 when it comes to cinematic evolution. In 2015, another film challenges the realms of outer space with the Ridley Scott sci-fi drama “The Martian.” No, Scott is not venturing into that dark realm which ignited his career in 1979 with the thriller “Alien.” He is however going back into space for a drama that leaves the spectator in a giddy move and wanting to share all the wonders of this movie with the world.
The plot of the movie kicks off with the NASA crew Ares III is on a mission to Mars to investigate the possibility of life on the Red Planet. During their mission, astronaut Mark Watney (Matt Damon) is injured during an intense rock storm and presumed dead by the rest of his colleagues, including Ares III Commander Melissa Lewis portrayed by Jessica Chastain.
That is something to note, “The Martian” does consist of an all-star cast including Jeff Daniels, Michael Pena, Kata Mara, Sean Bean, Sebastian Stan and Chiwetel Ejiofor to name a few. However, hands down this is Matt Damon’s movie; his performance ignites the screen, drives the narrative and bridges that emotional connection between the viewer and the screen. It’s some of Damon’s finest work since his performance in “The Departed” which was so overlooked in my opinion.
Scott as director does a fascinating job of crafting for the audience a glimpse of what Mars might look like. What habitat might be like, what space in general consists of. We all have our theories of what lives beyond Earth, but to be honest we have no clue so speculation through cinema opens the viewers mind to the possibilities which are quite endless.
The movie does play out in the realm of “Gravity,” where our survivor does his best to survive against all odds and get back home to Earth. The difference between that flick and “The Martian” is this flick is more narrative driven. “Gravity” was a visual spectacle; and while “The Martian” has some stunning special effects, the ability to drive such a resonating narrative is the highlight of the movie.
Watney, while injured is no dummy. As a botanist, he discovers he has to find a way to grow food to ensure survival for several years until another mission to the Red Planet for rescue. Yes, that notion seems a bit far-fetched, but who is to say it can’t actually happen. We get that interpersonal connection from Watney via his video blogs, which shocks NASA when they discover he is alive. The rest of the movie becomes a tale of survival and the fight of the human spirit, which will leave the spectator cheering in the theater.
There is that portion in the second act where it becomes a bit too much dialogue and not enough action, but if the viewer can survive through that the reward is worth it. “The Martian” hands down is a flick that belongs to Matt Damon for delivering such a fantastic performance, and with Scott helming the action that takes place this is a movie that should be a serious contender come awards season.