Director Ridley Scott is 77 years old and still capable of creating compelling and engaging cinema. His latest film is about a young botanist who gets stranded on Mars and must use his intelligence; training and limited resources to stay alive long enough to be rescued. The screenplay was developed from a book by a former computer programmer named Andy Weir who published it chapter –by-chapter on the web.
In the movie, astronaut/botanist Mark Whatney (a superb Matt Damon) is part of a crew, including Michael Pena, Kate Mara, Aksel Henny and Sebastian Stam, all under the command of a no bull Jessica Chastain. A storm with the power of a level #5 hurricane hits and Watney appears to be swallowed up by a whirling vortex of debris. His first words are: “I’m pretty much fucked”. After only 18 sols (Martian days) he is left behind as dead by a reluctant crew that blasts off back to Earth. Watney wakes up as if coming out of a coma and wonders where everyone went. The leaders at NASA played by CEO Jeff Daniels and scientist Chiwetel Ejiofor, arrange a memorial service before receiving word from Watney that he is still alive.
The through-line of the film is Watney’s innovative approach to surviving on Mars for nearly two years. He measures, calculates, builds and explodes things all with a wonderful spirit of adventure and persistence. In his video diary he writes “I’m left with only one option: I’m going to have to science the shit of this”
What makes the movie work is Damon’s bold and solid portrayl which includes arrogance, wisdom and humor. It is a story which champions the human spirit against the unforgiving laws of the universe.
***1/2 OUT OF 4
By Rob Goald Senior Editor