Hous­ton, he has a prob­lem

Sunday Tasmanian - Tassie Living - - WEEK IN MOVIES - Leigh Paatsch

Di­rec­tor: Ri­d­ley Scott (Alien) Star­ring: Matt Damon, Jes­sica Chas­tain, Jeff Daniels, Chi­we­tel Ejio­for, Kris­ten Wiig

SCIENCE fic­tion on the big screen rarely gets as in­stantly com­pelling, yet ca­su­ally crowd­pleas­ing, as it does in The Mar­tian.

Based on the wildly pop­u­lar 2011 book by Amer­i­can au­thor Andy Weir, the movie’s con­cep­tual co­or­di­nates tri­an­gu­late some­where close to Grav­ity meets Cast Away via Apollo 13.

Just don’t be run­ning late here what­ever you do, be­cause The Mar­tian is not play­ing any sce­ne­set­ting wait­ing games in its open­ing min­utes.

Hav­ing only just ar­rived on Mars, a six-per­son NASA re­search team must beat a hasty re­treat back to Earth due to a freak storm.

By the time Cap­tain Melissa Lewis (Jes­sica Chas­tain) gives the all-clear for an emer­gency exit launch, the head count is down to five.

Botanist Mark Whit­ney (Matt Damon), was struck by fly­ing de­bris, and is as­sumed to have died in­stantly.

No prizes for guess­ing Mark did not per­ish. How­ever, let’s skip for­ward a bit to the make-or-break sce­nario which will carry The Mar­tian to greater heights.

First, the good news. Mark has the food-and-shel­ter thing cov­ered. The crew’s base sta­tion is still op­er­a­tional. With less mouths to feed, there is al­most a year’s worth of sup­plies to keep Mark nour­ished.

The bad news? A year’s worth of meals isn’t of much long-term use to Mark’s plight, con­sid­er­ing no space­craft is sched­uled to reach Mars for at least another four years.

As for Mark rais­ing an alarm that might alert his team to dou­ble-back and res­cue him, for­get about it. All com­mu­ni­ca­tions sys­tems are down.

In spite of hav­ing done the math for the doomed equa­tion be­fore him, Mark de­cides to skew the fig­ures in his favour.

In his own words, any chance Mark stands of beat­ing the odds will mean “I’m go­ing to have to science the sh** out of this.”

Which is ex­actly what he quickly sets out to do, start­ing off with an in­ge­nious (and rather gross) method of grow­ing his own pro­duce, and then mov­ing on from there.

What fol­lows is an in­cred­i­bly in­volv­ing (and sur­pris­ingly plau­si­ble) yarn about find­ing re­silience, re­source­ful­ness and hu­mour in places and sit­u­a­tions where none of these things should be re­motely pos­si­ble.

Speak­ing of re­motely, The Mar­tian re­mains just as ex­cit­ing and en­ter­tain­ing when it moves its sto­ry­telling fo­cus off the sur­face of Mars.

Con­tin­ual crosses to NASA HQ in Hous­ton – where a brains trust led by Jeff Daniels and Chi­we­tel Ejio­for are try­ing to piece to­gether what has hap­pened up there – move with an up­beat ur­gency that is dis­arm­ingly en­joy­able.

Now show­ing State and Vil­lage cine­mas

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