SCI-FI; 2hr 24min
STARRING: Matt Damon, Jessica Chastain, Jeff Daniels
Andy Weir’s 2011 novel The Martian is a book that begged for new life as a film, especially a charged blockbuster directed by Ridley Scott and starring Mr Likeability, Matt D. The concept, of astronaut Mark Watney (Damon), abandoned by fellow crew members (under the concise leadership of Chastain’s Commander Lewis) while presumed dead during a storm on Mars, is a grade-A grabber. In execution, though, much of Weir's diligently authentic prose is necessarily technical. That’s not an issue here. While the language is scientific, Scott’s red planet is fiercely immediate, and Watney’s aloneness unimaginably profound. So, too, is his can-do resourcefulness. “I’m not gonna die,” he assures himself.
While Watney grapples with the day-to-day exigencies, NASA boffins back home are racing to strategise. The second half of this long, strange, wholly engrossing and visually unbeatable trip cuts between earthbound action, life on Mars and Watney’s crewmates in deep space. Damon, open, engaging and still somehow boyish, stays steadfast through it all in the Tom Hanks mould of a great, relatable hero. Technical bravura is always a blast but the emotional core temp is entirely down to him.