Review: The Martian
It is a popular trend to turn best-selling novels into movies in Hollywood for a very long time, and now that trend has turned over to Paul Weir's The Martian. With the premise of a man being stuck alone with just his wits on a planet, the potential for a film is extremely high and Ridley Scott saw that and delivered one of his best movies to date. Previously, Scott's films have been a bit of the downward trend so it is a welcome sight to see him return to form with arguably one of the better films of the year. The film had a chance of being extremely dour and depressing but yet due to the direction of Scott and the performance of Matt Damon it ends up being surprisingly upbeat.
The plot follows Mark Watney (Matt Damon) who is a part of an expedition with his crew on Mars. A horrible dust storm forces them to evacuate as quickly as possible but during the evacuation Watney is struck debris and lost in storm. Believed to be dead, mission commander Melissa Lewis (Jessica Chastain) realizes that the crew is still in peril and continues with the evacuation. Watney wakes up sometime after the storm had passed realizing that he had been left behind he makes his way back to "the Hab" the crew's living quarters during the day's that they lived on Mars on their expedition. In the Hab he is forced with the insane task of finding a way to survive while he also contacts NASA to make them aware that he is indeed still alive.
In a lot of scenes throughout the film, Matt Damon is acting by himself and while in the hands of a lesser actor that could destroy a film. However, Damon is such a strong and likable actor that you are instantly drawn in by his performance and care for his well being. Instead of being depressing, Damon's Watney interacts solely with a recording device inside the Hub and effectively it is as if he is speaking directly to the audience which even further makes the viewers connect with him. The rest of the characters in the film are aptly portrayed all the while Jeff Daniels turn as NASA director Theodore Sanders is shown to be a pseudo-villain in the story as he is a very smart and competent man but he is against "unnecessary" risks which ultimately comes off as he only cares about himself. Chiwetel Ejofor plays Vincent Kapoor who was the Mars mission director and of the people on Earth trying to bring Watney home he is the most human. Ejofor does a good job in the role as a lot of the characters that are on Earth are largely forgettable outside of his own.
My one real issue with the film would be that it does bog down a bit in between the second and final act. The pacing slows down and it seemed like a few scenes could have been cut as it managed to show more of the action on Earth instead of the real draw of watching Watney survive on Mars. However, there is a certain need to show the audience what Earth is doing to bring him back home it could have been done a little smoother. Ridley Scott had hit a rough patch before this movie and because of him being attached as director I was a bit hesitant at first, but it is a welcome sight to see him return to form and deliver a terrific sci-fi drama. Matt Damon delivers quite possibly his most powerful performance to date while Chiwetel Ejofor and Jessica Chastain also give good performances in supporting roles. It is easy to see why this film is up for best picture during the Oscar season but to me, the pacing drops down a peg in my opinion.