After the somewhat lukewarm Exodus: Gods and Kings, Ridley Scott comes all guns blazing with the Sci-Fi, The Martian. Science fiction is one genre that has served him well over the years and he is at home completely dealing with it. Here is a film which narrates one of the most tense and gripping story of survival. A story which is laid out over years and is still strikingly easy to correlate and understand. The story of a man marooned on Mars, should have been tense and somber. But what we get here instead is an insanely funny adventure wherein the protagonist is as much a source of worry and tension as he is a source of fun and comedy.
During a mission, an astronaut, Mark Watney (Matt Damon )is left for dead on Mars by his team members after they face a severe storm and watch Mark blown away with his suit penetrated. However, Mark survives and after patching himself up, he gets to work. His challenges are to make arrangements for water, food and survival till the time the next mission arrives and rescues him. However, that would be possible only when he is able to send the message of his existence across which proves to be difficult. As you might have guessed it already, the rest of the film is about how he does that.
There are some insane ideas on show here. Like for instance Mark grows his own food using the sand of Mars and his own excreta as the base. The potatoes, that he grows out of this state of the art agriculture, ensures his survival for the duration of his stay. To grow the crops he needs water, which he harvests by burning Hydrogen. Another strict no-no on Space. He keeps himself warm by using Plutonium which the text books will tell you, is a suicide. He uses the Pathfinder to communicate with NASA which is just another of his brilliant ideas. The film is laced with such tiny bits of adventure which add up to give the viewers the feel of an overwhelming adventure.
Matt Damon, pulls of a sensational act which will not only amuse you but will make you ask for more. Even though this is not “Gravity” which had all but five characters, but still Damon is on his own for at least half of the film. The screenplay is so tight and engaging that the film feels like an hour long adventure, when its duration is a rather long, two hours thirty minutes. The atmosphere and feel of Mars is created beautifully. One has to give credit to the art department for not only creating a very believable and gritty Mars but also ensuring that the build and mechanics of the innards of the space ships and centers also stay real.
However there are a few far-fetched liberties which takes the film somewhat into inaccuracy. To start with, the Chinese would not give a damn about an American Scientist, when their state of the art technology was in question. To have an Astronaut thrown into space, in a pod which has no controls and is practically blanketed by a lining of Fabric for safety, is laughable. Also the mid space catch of Mark by his boss Lewis(Jessica Chastain), may look good on screen, but the moment you think about it, it comes off as laughable too. Sans those cinematic liberties, the film stays on track for most of the part. And Yes! the cursing can be attributed to space-disorientation.
Damon plays his heart out. He truly gives the film a piggy back ride on his back. The visuals, which are the second best thing about this film, would not have mattered had the protagonist not mattered the way Damon makes Mark matter. Chiwetel Ejiofor is the next best performance wise. No matter how hard it is to take a black guy for the genius that he plays, he is still wonderful. Jeff Daniels as the chief of NASA is great. Sean Bean is good in a cameo. It is always a pleasure to listen to his smooth talks. Jessica Chastain as the captain of the ship is able. She has little to do but carries her part well. The rest of the cast chips in with their bits.
The film boasts of stupendous visual effects. I use the word stupendous primarily because of the fact that the film’s visuals remain subtle. They never try to overtake the story which happens to be the best thing about it. They just seamlessly blend in with the narrative, giving you the feeling of realism which not only increases your tension and thrill but simply makes the narrative that much more effective. The cinematography and the art work already mentioned is top notch. The editing works in tandem with the mood and speed of the narrative and superbly compliments both. However, the 3D is wasted terribly. I couldn’t put an onus on any sequence where the 3D might have elevated the effect. It’s just a gimmick used to may be pulling in a few extra souls.
The Martian is a thoroughly entertaining and rewarding epic. It is the kind of film that you enjoy and come out with a big grin on your face. It takes its time to get to the point but you will never feel a thing simply because so much is happening all around. A sweeping adventure in the lines of Interstellar and Gravity which doesn’t make you think too much. The visuals and the ceaseless thrills contribute into making this film as enjoyable as it gets. Don’t miss it.