A TRIUMPHANT RETURN FOR FORMERLY ACCLAIMED DIRECTOR RIDLEY SCOTT, WHO DIRECTS HIS LATEST FILM, THE MARTIAN, WITH SUCH AN ENERGY AND JOYISH THRILL, THAT IT MAKES YOU WONDER WHY OR HOW HE HAS LOST HIS STEP FOR SO LONG? BOASTING GREAT VISUALS (PER USUAL IN A SCOTT FILM), AN EXPLOSIVELY TALENTED CAST AND A CHARISMATIC AND MAYBE EVEN OSCAR WORTHY PERFORMANCE FROM MATT DAMON, THE MARTIAN IS A WELCOME RETURN FOR SCOTT AND ONE OF THE BEST FILMS OF THE YEAR THUS FAR.
Ever since American Gangster, which I think can be unanimously stated as Ridley Scott’s last good movie, the once formerly acclaimed director has been on a downward spiral. His last movie that got traction, albeit in a highly diverse light, was Prometheus, a movie which aside from the logic flaws, I enjoyed tremendously, but fell within the minority camp on that one. Now, fast forward 3 years later, since that film’s released, Scott has put out some of his worst work in decades with The Counselor and Exodus: Gods and Kings, both of which still give me nightmares.
But one look at The Martian seemed as though Scott was on the track to return to form. The Martian, has everything that is a recipe for greatness with in a Ridley Scott film, great cast, inquisitive premises, and a visually stunning trailer, all of which heightened my anticipation for the film and I must say that within ten minutes of watching the movie, I knew that Ridley Scott had got his mojo back.
Ridley Scott’s The Martian, chronicles the misadventures of Mark Watney (Matt Damon) a Botanist and NASA Astronaut, who during the course of a dangerous storm, which forces his team to evacuate, gets whisk away by a stray piece of debris. Team leader Melissa Lewis (Jessica Chastain) is unable to locate Watney in the storm and is forced to flee with the remaining crew members. However! Once the storm clears and dust settles to everyone surprise, even Watney himself, he survived the storm and even though he’s got a few bruises and scrapes on him, he’ll live, but for how long? Fortunately, Wantey is able to signal the head of NASA Teddy Sanders (Jeff Daniels) and Missions Commander Vincent Kapor (Chiwetel Ejiofor) that he is in fact alive and stranded on Mars, biding his time for them to come a rescue him.
I’ll just come out and say it, so far, this is the best movie I’ve seen all year. From the beginning the film sucks you in with a gorgeous establishing shot of Mars, that sweeps over the beautiful landscape. From there it jumps right into the movie, the storm hits, Watney gets knocked out and his crew leaves, and he wakes up stranded. BOOM! BOOM! BOOM! Rapid fire, the movie doesn’t slow down as it nearly breezes through it’s 2hr and 20min run-time. This is largely thanks to the way Scott edits and cuts between the scenes on Mars with Damon and the scenes on Earth where the hard working officials at NASA rack their brain to come up with a viable way to get Watney off the planet.
Much of the fast pace is thanks in large part to screenwriter Drew Goddard (Cabin in the Woods, Marvel’s Daredevil), who expertly shifts between the two locations on the page, which Scott then brilliantly portrays on screen. Goddard also injects some unexpected humor into the story which helps you as a viewer ease through and then be sucker punched by the unexpected tense scenes that nearly choke you into shock. Yet the fun of the movie comes from watching Damon’s character as he uses his intellect and wit to survive this nearly impossible winning situation.
From growing organic potatoes from his own personal supply of fertilizer, to figure out how to send complicated messages back and forth to NASA, that can only be in the form of still photos. One can’t help but be amazed by how resourceful and careful the character of Watney is.
This sets a brilliant stage for Damon who, as of right now should get an Oscar nomination for his magnetic and charismatic performance. Damon does his best work in years, really sinking his teeth into the very complex role that on the outside might have looked one note, but in the hands of a competent director like Scott and a understated performer like Damon, is something of a joy to follow through the course of the film.
All of the other supporting characters are great here two, with Daniels and Ejiofor getting great scenes with bits of dialogue to bounce off each other. Kristen Wiig giving a surprisingly thorough performance as Annie Montrose, NASA’s Media Relations Representative, who could be stated as the comedic relief, though thankfully that’s not all the reason she’s been placed in the film.
Watney’s crew, which consist of Michael Pena as the crew’s ship pilot, and Kate Mara, Sebastian Stan and Askel Hemmie, all give great performances, with Chastain, Pena and Mara coming out as the standouts from the bunch.
The only gripe I have is that the beginning of the third act hits kind of a lull. The film seems to be running out of steam and sort of limps to the finish line, but doesn’t do so without great style and flash, it’s just kind of a bummer that the last 20 mins wasn’t as tight and fresh as the previous 2 hours.
In closing The Martian was and is everything I’d hope as a Ridley Scott fan, he directs this film with a joyful sentiment that’s been missing from his last few films, and I’m eagerly awaiting for what he does next.