One small step for man, One giant leap for Matt Damon
Based on the best selling book, The Martian continues the trend of big blockbusters set in space. With a great cast, a believable performance by Matt Damon and a solid script throughout, The Martian is one of the year’s finest big budget films.
The story begins in the near future, following a group of astronauts as they embark on a manned mission to Mars. When a fierce storm ravages the planet, Mark Whatney (Matt Damon) is flung off his feet and presumed dead as the rest of the crew leave and fly home. Only trouble is, he’s not dead. With supplies dwindling and finding himself all alone on the Red Planet, its up to Mark to try and survive while hoping NASA and his crew-mates come back and save him. With Matt Damon the focal character for long stretches of the film, there’s a lot of expository dialogue featuring him talking into the camera. Although it’s easy to perceive this as a lazy plot device, it works well with the film’s tone. Without this narrative device in place, The Martian could so easily have become another moody, bleak thriller. Where The Martian sets itself apart is through its theme focusing on hope and its reliance on a great cast to drive the narrative forward.
The contrasting red vista of Mars compared to the small confines of the Mars base is juxtaposed really well here. There’s some great shots both inside and outside and whilst on the planet’s surface outside, the camera pans across the landscape a lot, choosing a lot of far away shots to accentuate just how alone Whatney is. Its a simple technique, especially compared to the close up shots we get of him inside. The colours contrast nicely too with a lot of cold, blues and greys inside the base and on Earth compared to the hot reds and oranges used outside on Mars.
The Martian features some great sprinkles of humour dotted throughout to break up the moody bleakness of the situation. Without convincing characters, the film so easily could have come across too lighthearted but the self-aware writing helps keep the film tonally solid. The humour is never used to overshadow the situation Whatney finds himself in and along with a very good supporting cast, The Martian is one of the most consistent films of the year. The musical score helps with this too with orchestral strings and uplifting, lively songs used in good supply. At 2 and a half hours, The Martian is a long film. There are a few moments where it feels a little too long but its just a nitpick, on the whole there’s no denying that this is a great film.
Overall, The Martian continues the yearly trend of one big space blockbuster with the focal point resting on the theme of hope this time around. Its shot well, with some great scenes on Mars and a good use of humour without overpowering the bleakness of the situation. Matt Damon is outstanding though and his narrowed gaze and quiet contemplation as he tries to figure out the situation he’s in makes the whole thing believable. Its a long film, no doubt about it, but The Martian is a well told story with enough nuance that rarely makes it feel like it drags. With an absolutely stacked cast and a solid script throughout, this is definitely one of the best films released this year.