On a routine space expedition to Mars, a ground crew are on their final research mission when a fierce storm lashes the planet’s surface. The team of astronauts, severely buffeted by the relentless gales, manage to scramble back to their craft. They watch in horror as one of their crew members, Mark Watney (played by Matt Damon), is blasted hundreds of metres out of sight by the high winds. Assuming he has been killed, Commander Melissa Lewis (by Jessica Chastain) departs the surface of Mars to preserve the lives of her remaining crew. They start their journey home to Earth. Several hours later when the storm has passed, Watney now lies on the calm Mars ground. He regains consciousness and slowly realises he has been left behind on Mars … alone. Now what should he do? … Left on this inhospitable barren planet, does anyone even know he’s alive? … How will he survive? … Will anyone ever come back for him?
This is an entertaining and well-made movie. Once the viewer realises it’s not supposed to be a serious sci-fi, but more a light-hearted drama (almost comedy) made as an adventure story, the whole experience is enjoyable. As Astronaut Mark Watney, Matt Damon is perfectly cast as this highly intelligent, but realistic and practical botanist who’s left to use his every ounce of instinct and ingenuity to figure out a way to survive. He’s got to be smart, as there’s a whole station of highly advanced technical equipment to operate and there’s fundamental mathematics and science to be applied to this survival situation. His co-stars add interest and intrigue to the story – I love that there are some strong, smart women in driving roles – Jessica Chastain is our courageous and innovative Commander Lewis; Kristen Wiig is the digital satellite expert at NASA; and Kate Mara as the crew’s technology whizz. Our resident “Mars” expert at NASA Ground Control is Vincent Kapoor, played very well by Chiwetel Ejiofor, the necessary political animal is NASA Director Teddy Sanders, by Jeff Daniels, who must navigate the stakeholders to get what he needs to keep the space crew alive, the media at bay and the political climate positive. It’s good to see Sean Bean here as NASA’s Mitch Henderson (and not a bad guy for once), he hasn’t been around much lately. Overall, it’s an entertaining adventure story, supported well by a great script and good soundtrack – how timely to note that David Bowie’s “Starman” is used very well in this, along with several other songs from a time gone by. Quite deservedly, the movie won the 2016 AFI Award for “Movie of the Year” and it made no. 5 in the African-American Film Critics Association (AAFCA) 2015 “Top 10 Films”. It also won Golden Globes for Best Motion Picture and Matt Damon for Best Actor. In the 2016 Academy Awards (Oscars) it was nominated for Motion Picture of the Year and in both the Oscars and the BAFTA’s nominations were for Matt Damon (Leading Actor), Writing, Production Design, Sound Mixing, Sound Editing and Visual Effects. It is based on the book “The Martian” by Andy Weir. Very well done.
Made in 2015. Directed by Ridley Scott.