Movie Review with Jeff McCullough: The Martian

By Jeff McCullough on October 15, 2015 from Movie Review via

Cinema has a long history of making movies with poor suckers getting stuck in unfortunate places.  127 Hours had James Franco pinned down by a boulder, Cast Away had Tom Hanks going nuts on an island with a volleyball, Apollo 13 had Tom Hanks stranded again, this time in space; but as unfortunate as all of these accidental excursions were, none tops what astronaut Mark Watney survives in The Martian. The ill-lucked botanist finds himself stranded on a foreign planet 120,000,000 miles from Earth and years away from any potential rescue. But through humor, profanity, and potatoes grown in excrement, Watney does the seemingly impossible-- he survives.
What follows is one of the most inspirational, uplifting movies of this generation. Directed by famed Sci-Fi icon Ridley Scott and based off a novel by Andy Weir, The Martian gives it’s titular character just about the worst possible set of circumstances imaginable. Alone on Mars, limited resources, thought dead, and with no way to contact Earth for help.
Oxygen and water are thankfully not a problem due to some high-tech life support systems, but food is extremely limited. Of course, none of this matters if N.A.S.A. doesn’t know he’s there, giving Watney a whole new host of problems. And worst of all, the only music on the whole planet is the commanders collection of disco.
But through it all, Mark stubbornly refuses to die. (Personally, the disco alone would have done me in) Played by Matt Damon, Watney is crude, lewd, and absolutely brilliant. With the vocabulary of a sailor and looks of a model, Mark isn’t your typical nerdy scientist, but that’s what helps him stay alive. Even when things go wrong, and the situation seems dire, he doesn’t lose his spirit, cracking jokes and coping better than any man in his situation could be expected to.
The Martian has a truly phenomenal cast. Matt Damon, Jessica Chastain, Michael Peña, Kate Mara, Donald Glover, Sean Bean, Kristen Wiig, and Chiwetel  Ejiofor all grace the film with their presence. Indeed, Scott’s cast has just about every up and comer in Hollywood.
Matt himself delivers a career high performance.  I’ve always been a fan of Damon, but he has never been an actor known for his range. Here though, rather than playing the bone breaking thug he made famous in the Bourne trilogy, he delivers a nuanced, layered performance. There are times after unexpected disasters where Watney is on the verge of giving up, but he never does. Throughout the whole experience he remains steadfast on survival. The fact he is hilarious is just a bonus.
Next to Damon’s spectacular showing, my favorite role in the film is Jeff Daniels as Teddy Sanders, the head of N.A.S.A. Daniels, once best known for his comedic roles in films like Dumb and Dumber, has had career resurgence as of late and is quickly becoming one of my favorite actors. As Teddy, he displays the charisma and personality someone in his position would need, while retaining the goofy likability that made him a star in his youth.
From a technical point, the film is breathtaking. I have no idea how they did it, but the production team managed to make a planet made of desolate red rock look gorgeous.  Watching Watney traverse Mars is transfixing. Being an unexplored planet, every step he takes, every mountain he climbs, is the first in human history. It's a crazy thought.
The Martian is a truly excellent film, easily one of 2015's best so far, and one of the first films to do something new with space exploration in a long while. If one ever did find themselves trapped on Mars with only one film available, The Martian wouldn't be a bad choice. Just bring some music that isn't disco.
4.5 out of 5 stars

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