Houston, he has a problem
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