Mar­tian a su­pe­rior sur­vival thriller

Marlborough Express - The Saturday Express, Marlborough - - OUT&ABOUT - STEVE NE­WALL

Ri­d­ley Scott’s pre­vi­ous jour­neys into outer space have been bold leaps of imag­i­na­tion paired with vis­ual flair.

The Mar­tian, on the other hand, is a sci­en­tif­i­cally-grounded thriller set for the most part on a planet that’s got heaps of red rocks.

Hav­ing more in com­mon with Cast­away than the hor­rors of Alien, it’s the nerve-rack­ing sit­u­a­tion that Matt Damon’s smart-arse char­ac­ter Mark Wat­ney finds him­self in, stranded on the sur­face of Mars, that does the heavy lift­ing, rather than won­ders of the cos­mos or pre­vi­ously un­seen ter­rors.

Scott’s in eco­nom­i­cal mode here, a more fit­ting match for Andy Weir’s novel (largely told in the first-per­son in jour­nal form), than the re­cent bom­bast of Ex­o­dus: Gods and Kings or Prometheus.

Weir delved deeper into Wat­ney’s sci­en­tific rea­son­ing, but Scott still proves adept at bring­ing far more de­tail to pro­ceed­ings than your av­er­age sci-fi pic. This is just one of the many ways he’s aided by Damon, whose mono­logues, lib­er­ally pep­pered with hu­mour and a dash­ing of pro­fan­ity, not only help his char­ac­ter cope with iso­la­tion and






panic, but keep us in­vested in his cir­cum­stances.

Grav­ity is the ob­vi­ous com­par­i­son, but The Mar­tian is more predica­ment prob­lem­solv­ing than thrill-ride, and see­ing Mars brought to life more an in­tel­lec­tual than vis­ual spec­ta­cle com­pared to Bul­lock’s or­bital ad­ven­ture.

Thank­fully, The Mar­tian does a much more suc­cess­ful job at con­vey­ing the in­vis­i­ble en­vi­ron­men­tal threat of Mars’ at­mos­phere than the in­vis­i­ble en­vi­ron­men­tal threat of Earth’s ecosys­tem seen in the ad­mit­ted­lyter­ri­ble The Hap­pen­ing.

A su­pe­rior sur­vival thriller, and one that doesn’t need to trade on a body count of real life vic­tims, The Mar­tian shows that true sto­ries of en­durance aren’t al­ways bet­ter than fic­tion.

That it does so in largely solo fash­ion, in a fa­mil­iar-look­ing en­vi­ron­ment, makes it all the more im­pres­sive.

The Mar­tian.

Matt Damon de­liv­ers a per­for­mance full of un­forced charm and mis­chief in

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