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The Martian Review

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Thrusting us straight into the action in his new movie, Ridley Scott wastes no time in letting us know one salient and crucial fact from the very beginning; Mars is a very very hostile planet. The Martian is the story of one man's struggle to survive a completely inhospitable environment and the lengths the human spirit will go to to endure and to overcome.

The story is lifted from the pages of Andy Weir's novel of the same name, and follows a botanist named Mark Watney who gets left behind on the red planet when a mission goes disastrously wrong and his crew believe him to be dead. What follows is Watney coming to the realisation that any rescue mission will take at least four years to reach him, while he's stranded in a habitat designed to last only a few weeks. In order to survive he must MacGyver his equipment and figure out a way to let NASA know that he's still alive.


Where Scott has succeeded with Weir's novel is taking the hardcore science of it all and translating it to screen without general audiences losing interest. This is thanks largely to two people, the first being writer Drew Goddard who manages to infuse the script with a dry, sarcastic humour and to break down the science of the mission without being condescending. He does this while still packing in some of the smaller and more intimate moments from the book, which prove crucial in the later stages of the film to really have an impact when the tension starts to mount.

The other element of the movie that elevates it is The Martian himself. Matt Damon transfers every ounce of his likeability, charisma and charm into the character and delivers one of his best ever performances, shouldering the bulk of the movie on his own. The plot relies on him to drive the story forward through his bravery, hope and unwavering determination to not give up. Mark Watney is completely endearing and I would struggle to think of another actor who could have pulled off just what Damon does in his portrayal of the scientist.


While Watney does his best to fight the hostile elements, there is also a whole team back on Earth working against the clock to figure out a way off the red planet for him, not to mention his own crew aboard their ship en route home. The supporting ensemble provide welcome respite from the bare landscape of Mars but their roles are largely consigned to the background to keep the focus on Watney.

Much has been made of the science of the film - it has NASA's unconditional blessing - and while it will no doubt please sci-fi fans and physics geeks, Ridley Scott also deserves praise for making the film completely accessible to mainstream audiences. It's thrilling, exhilerating, and at times spectacularly tense. The third act layers on the suspense to an almost unbearable level, and the film builds to a climax that will leave you on the edge of your seat, breathless and spent.


The Martian is a celebration of everything that makes cinema great. Sure, there are things that don't work but when something is trying this hard to be overwhelmngly entertaining it's difficult to find fault. Inspirational, beautiful and full of magic, it is one of those rare movies that adds up to more than the sum of it's parts. A complete and utter triumph.


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